University applications down by 50,000
The cost of tuition fees has resulted in university applications dropping by 50,000 students, according to the university admissions service, Ucas.
Figures show that demand for degree courses across Britain is down by almost nine per cent in just 12 months.
Overall, applications from the UK fell 7.7%. The fall was at its biggest in England, at 10%, where students are having to bear the full cost of their university education through government-backed loans.
In Wales, where students are partly subsidised, applicants dropped just 2.7%.
In Scotland, where applicants who have been living there for three years or more pay nothing, the drop was 2.2%.
Applications from Northern Ireland, where fees were frozen at 2011 levels, went down 4.4%. Students studying outside Northern Ireland have to pay full fees in other countries.
The number of students applying from mainland Europe has dropped from 45,727 to 39,966 – a fall of almost 13 per cent.
Among British students alone, applications are down by almost nine per cent – from 550,147 in 2011 to 501,267 this year.
According to Ucas, students from England are being put off in far higher numbers than in other countries. The figures also suggest that students are being driven away from subjects that are less likely to lead to a highly-paid job.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, said: “These latest figures highlight yet again the government’s recklessness in raising tuition fees to as much as £9,000 a year.
“It should come as little surprise that applications in England are hardest hit as a result of the government making it the most expensive country in the world in which to gain a public degree education.
"The number of older people being deterred from applying is particularly concerning. If we want to compete with other leading economies and produce highly-skilled workers we simply cannot afford to have a system that puts people off university.
"Erecting punitive financial barriers is not the way to encourage the best and brightest to get on. Do ministers really want to return us to a time when money, not ability, mattered most for success?"
Universities Minister David Willetts said: "Even with a small reduction in applications, this will still be a competitive year like any other as people continue to understand that university remains a good long-term investment in their future."
The UCU academics' union said the figures highlighted the recklessness of raising fees to £9,000.
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