By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
The number of universities recruiting students later in the academic year has soared following a sudden slump in the autumn admissions rate, the Telegraph has learnt.
Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show a near 50 per cent rise in the number of courses taking on undergraduates in January 2013. British students who failed to secure a place in September are being given the chance to study a range of subjects such as accounting, biology, business management, English, history, geography and law starting next month.
In many cases, undergraduates are expected to squeeze a year’s worth of work into two terms – and study over the summer holidays – to catch up with other students by next autumn. Some universities insisted that January starts were a common feature of their academic year – giving students who failed to make up their minds in the summer a second chance to take a degree course.
But other vice-chancellors suggested that the rise this year had been driven by a drop in the number of students recruited in the autumn, leaving more courses with vacancies.
Figures show that some 57,000 fewer undergraduates started university in September or October amid a backlash over the near tripling of tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000-a-year for the first time this year. Last month, England’s Higher Education Funding Council found that university finances were under pressure after the “unexpected fall” in admissions rates.
UCAS figures show that 417 courses are now being run from January 2013 – up from 284 in 2012 and just 246 in 2011. It represents a rise of 47 per cent in the last 12 months. Institutions advertising undergraduate courses with a “second semester” start include Derby, Hertfordshire, Oxford Brookes, London Metropolitan, Portsmouth and Staffordshire.
Prof John Coyne, vice-chancellor of Derby, said his university had always run January courses on the most popular degree subjects to boost student options. He insisted that undergraduates did not “want the equivalent of the January sales, with one last attempt at getting rid of the courses no-one wanted in September”.
But he admitted that the number of other universities running January courses had soared this summer on the back of the “confusion and scaremongering that has been rife as the new fees regime comes into force”.
“It has been a terribly difficult time for those finishing their secondary education and many will have no doubt questioned whether or not to commit to university,” he said. “I believe this uncertainty will have led many to defer making a decision, perhaps to try and secure full-time employment, or maybe to simply buy themselves some time before making the commitment to university in 2013.”
Figures show that Derby is running 32 undergraduate courses for January, including subjects such as biology, psychology, sport science, business management, history and English. Oxford Brookes was also advertising 32 degree programmes on its website this week, while 12 were on offer at Staffordshire.
Hertfordshire is giving students the chance to take degrees in accounting and finance or law from January. The university said students starting next month would “work through the summer and start your second year with all your friends in October 2013”.
Matthew Andrews, academic registrar at Oxford Brookes, said January courses were particularly popular with overseas students, adding: “The exact number recruited depends on a range of factors, including the availability of student accommodation and we anticipate an increase in the number accepted compared to recent years.” (The Telegraph)