Poorer students rise to university challenge as fees put off middle class

Record numbers of students from the poorest backgrounds are applying to university as demand among middle-class school leavers stalls, figures show. This is from the Telegraph…

One in five 18-year-olds living in the most deprived areas has applied to start a degree course in September, despite the introduction of £9,000-a-year tuition fees, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

The application rate among low income students, who are eligible for the most generous bursaries and fee discounts, has almost doubled in a decade.

Demand for places from students in the richest fifth of postcodes, meanwhile, remained stuck at the same level as last year, when applications slumped following the rise in tuition fees.

The figures show that almost 559,000 A-level students had applied to British universities by the official Jan15 deadline — up 3.5 per cent on the same point last year.

Ministers seized on the figures, claiming that they proved that poorer students were not deterred by the cost of a degree course nearly tripling last year.Critics warned that the figures did not represent a “bounce-back”, pointing out that overall numbers were still lower than in 2010 or 2011, before the introduction of higher fees.

The headline increase was partly driven by a continuing rise in applications from foreign students.

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union, said the data were a “real body blow for anyone who does not think higher fees are turning some people away from university”.

“Historical data suggests there should have been a considerable increase in the number of applications this year, but that simply is not the case,” she said.

Of the 558,898 people who have applied to university, 475,587 were British, a rise of 2.8 per cent.

A socio-economic analysis of the data showed that 18-year-olds living in the poorest fifth of areas accounted for 19.5 per cent of applications, compared with 18.4 per cent a year ago.

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