Fees backlash leads to sharp decline in student numbers

The number of students admitted to British universities last autumn plummeted by as much as 40 per cent amid a huge backlash over rising tuition fees. Figures show that overall entry rates in England – where fees were the highest – slumped by 51,000 in just 12 months. This is from the Telegraph…

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said that the “substantial” 13 per cent decline in numbers nationally was directly associated to the rise in the cost of a degree.

But data published for the first time shows that some universities suffered significantly shaper declines.

Enrolments at London Metropolitan University – the capital’s biggest higher education institution – dropped by more than 3,000 or 43 per cent compared with 2011.

Numbers slumped by between a quarter and a fifth at Bolton, East London, Greenwich, Leeds Metropolitan and University Campus Suffolk, figures showed.It also emerged that a number of members of the elite Russell Group, which represents Britain’s most sought-after institutions, saw a decline in admission rates.

Ten out of 24 members, including Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Southampton, admitted fewer students in 2012 than in 2011, it was revealed.

University leaders called for a high-profile Government marketing drive to stop teenagers being put off degree courses by fees, claiming a further drop in numbers this year could prove disastrous to higher education finances.

Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s shadow universities minister, said the scale of drops reported by some institutions “should be a concern for everyone”.

“The Government must now explain how the same will not be repeated this September,” she said.

“With every type of universities reporting significant falls in students, including many in the Russell Group, this is a problem for all of higher education.”

Alex Bols, executive director of the 1994 Group, which represents universities such as Lancaster, Goldsmiths and Royal Holloway, said: “If the drop in applications continues this year, it is imperative that we act quickly.

“It might be that students don’t understand the new loans repayment system and are being put off by the large ‘debt’. If this is the case, we would call on the Government to launch a high-profile campaign to better explain the system.”

For the first time last year, universities in England were able to charge up to £9,000 in annual tuition fees – almost three times the previous maximum.

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