Survey Shows High Tuition Sours UK Students on Higher Ed

A new survey suggests that one in 10 A-level students are being put off applying for UK universities because of the fees hike that will come into effect next year, writes Jeevan Vasagar at the Guardian.

Half of those questioned as part of the study said that the universities that are more local to them seem more appealing in an effort to save money. However, just less than half also said that they would consider studying aboard.

The BBC survey also shows that almost two-thirds would consider apprenticeships as an alternative to a degree.

Universities are experiencing a steep drop in demand for courses beginning next September, with one, City University London, saying applications were down 41.4%. Goldsmiths has reported a 35% drop while Brunel has 24% fewer candidates, writes Vasagar.

The data published in this survey seems to adhere this.

In the summer, a government watchdog announced that the estimated average fee across all English universities was £8,393. At the time, 47 planned to charge the maximum of £9,000 as their standard fee.

Now a number of universities are reconsidering the amount they intend to charge after the government gave them incentives to set an average fee below £7,500, as reported by Jessica Shepherd at the Guardian.

The BBC survey, which interviewed 1,009 A-level students in England this month, found the vast majority were worried about "the burden of debt" and thought it would be difficult to find employment after university, writes Vasagar.

Wes Streeting, chief executive of the Helena Kennedy Foundation, an educational charity, said:

"My main concern is about widening participation. If it is the case that higher tuition fees are having a detrimental impact on the number of applications, then schools, colleges and government need to redouble their efforts to get the facts out.

"When people look at the details, some of the fears that families still have about paying fees upfront may be allayed."

Under reforms introduced by the government last year, students will be able to take out state-backed loans to pay for their fees, as they do now. In future, graduates will pay back 9% of their income above £21,000. Graduates will pay interest on their loans, of a maximum of inflation plus 3%. Any outstanding repayments will be written off after 30 years, so graduates with low lifetime earnings will be protected.

A poll published earlier this month showed the number of teenagers enrolled at further education colleges in England was declining for the first time in 12 years, with some institutions reporting a slump in numbers of up to 15%.

Shabana Mahmood, Labour's shadow higher education minister, said:

"This report shows that young people are being put off applying for university by the trebling of tuition fees. This out-of-touch Tory-led government has completely mishandled universities policy."

The Association of Colleges asked half the colleges in the country how enrollments for this autumn compared year-on-year. Overall, the number of students had dropped by 0.1%, the equivalent of almost 600 students. But in a quarter of the colleges, the number of students had fallen by between 5% and 15%.

10 24, 2011
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