The Guardian is reporting that the number of students in England who were going on to university after high school in 2011-2012 has risen close to 50% for the first time. This is a record level of participation rate in the country and has long been a policy goal by both Tory and Labour governments.
At least part of the hike, however, can be attributed to a spike from students who skipped the traditional gap year in order to take advantage of the last year of low university tuition. Those who enrolled in 2012 were subject to fees that could be as much as 300% higher, ranging from £3,290 to the maximum of £9,000.
Statistics published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills show that 49.3% of young people in England entered higher education in the last academic year, the highest rate on record and just a shade below the 50% mark that successive governments have vowed to reach. But the rise in numbers was artificially driven up by the decision of thousands of school-leavers to go straight on to higher or further education, rather than defer their entry by a year or more, in order to beat the increase in tuition fees from £3,290 to a maximum of £9,000 a year from 2012-13.
The university entrance administrator Ucas said that the number of students choosing to defer admission in 2011 dropped by more than 50% from what is considered the yearly average. Fewer than 10,000 decided to put off university for another year compared to the more than 23,000 in 2010. Already, Ucas data shows that the number of deferments this year is back up to the 2010 levels.
More than 340,000 students enrolled in a university program for the first time for the 2011-12 academic year, a year-to-year increase of more than 17,000. The higher education initial participation rate spiked to 49% after holding steady at roughly 46% in the previous years.
The HEIPR measure – which counts 17-to-30-year-olds from England studying at UK institution for the first time – was used by the Labour government to judge progress towards its goal of a 50% participation rate. In 2006-07, the first year that HEIPR records were calculated, the rate was 42.5%. Meanwhile, a new survey by the Institute of Education has found that the number of jobs in the UK requiring a degree has overtaken the number not requiring any qualifications. More than one in four jobs are now only available to those with degrees, the skills and employment survey found.