The number of students applying to start university courses in England in September is down by 9 per cent compared with last year. Lucy Ross-Millar investigates what the implications are for the two universities in Cambridge.
The Government has defended its decision to treble university tuition fees – despite the fact that fewer youngsters are applying to university. The new system, which charges a maximum of £9,000 a year, sees students pay their tuition fees once they are earning £21,000 a year, after they graduate.
Chairman of the Independent Commission on Fees, Will Hutton, told: “University fees are not going up in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and the long-term trend of rising application that we have seen in England is carrying on in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
“There is a discernible difference. On a positive note we are pleased to see that, at this stage, there has been no relative drop-off in applicants from less-advantaged neighbourhoods.”
The Independent Commission on Fees is examining the impact of the increase in fees, especially on those from poorer backgrounds.
It has drawn on statistics from the university admissions service Ucas, as well as a survey of the attitudes of some secondary school pupils. Universities in Cambridge have bucked the trend however, with an increase in the number of students applying to start this autumn.
Anglia Ruskin University has seen a 7.9 per cent rise in applications with a total of 18,179 applications through Ucas this year compared to 16,855 at the same point in 2011.
Sandra Hollis, pro Vice- Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin, said: “We are delighted that Anglia Ruskin is bucking the national trend and has experienced another year-on-year increase in applications.
“The university was successful in a bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for additional places and was allocated 550, more than any other university in the country.
“We are known for our world-leading research and pride ourselves on creating a supportive environment in which every student can reach their potential.
“These factors, as well as the £81 million we have invested in new facilities over the last five years, have meant that Anglia Ruskin is proving more popular than ever.
The number of applications to UK universities will increase when the busiest period in the admissions calendar, known as clearing, begins after A-level results are released next week.
Applications to Cambridge University have also increased, including those from students at state schools, a spokesman for the university said.
“We received 15,675 applications by October, 15, last year, an increase of two per cent on the previous admissions round,” he told the News.
“Within this total, applications from UK students educated in the state sector have increased by 3 per cent.
“We believe that these figures reflect the University of Cambridge’s longstanding commitment to recruiting the ablest and best-qualified students with the greatest academic potential from every background.
“Our extensive financial support package aims to ensure that no student with the ability to succeed here is deterred from applying because of financial concerns.”
Sarah Stroud, 21, of Robert May Close, Cambridge, said she feels let down by the Government.
She said: “I had plans to go to university before the fees increased, I wanted to do Photography or Art in Norwich but now it is simply too expensive.
“If I went I would be in so much debt so I decided it wasn’t worth it.
“The Government has let down a generation, especially those who are worse off as young people simply won’t go if they can’t afford it.
“It might affect me, not having a degree, but a lot of university students don’t seem to have jobs at the moment anyway.”
The sums involved
* Annual tuition fees rose from around £3,375 to £9,000 in 2012.
* Full-time and part-time students who start their course after September 1, 2012, will start paying back their fees once they are earning more than £21,000 a year.
* Cambridge University charges its undergraduates £9,000 a year.
* Anglia Ruskin University charges its undergraduates between £6,500 and £8,300.
* There has been a 9 per cent fall in applications across universities in England.
* Scottish universities do not charge Scottish students for tuition fees but students from the rest of the UK are charged around £9,000 a year.