By Richard Johnstone | 3 January 2013
The number of people applying to university has fallen for the second year in a row, according to figures published today.By December 17, there were 303,861 applications for the 2013 academic year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said.
This is almost 20,000, or 5.6%, down on equivalent figures for 2012, which was the first year institutions were able to charge up to £9,000 a year for tuition fees. At the same point last year, there had been 321,908 applications, which in turn were 20,000 fewer that in 2011.
According to today’s figures, the largest fall came in applications from England, with almost 16,000 fewer students entering the process.
The number of applicants from Scotland, Wales and the wider European Union also fell while those from outside the EU rose slightly, by 181.
Responding to the figures, the group representing universities said that the picture was likely to change ahead of the final application deadline on January 15.
Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge said: ‘While overall demand compared with the same point in previous years is down, we saw a similar trend in applications last year. By January, applicant figures had rallied and overall applications by the end of the cycle were not down by as much as many had feared.’
However, she added: ‘We must be concerned about any drops in the numbers applying to university and, in particular, we must look closely at how the increase in graduate contributions in England may be affecting the decisions of prospective students.
‘Going to university can transform lives, increase the chances of getting a job and increase your salary. No one should be put off applying to university because of worries about finance.’
The university think-tank Million+ said there was now a ‘worrying trend’ of falling applications.
Chief executive Pam Tatlow added: ‘We urge the government to step in with a national campaign to promote the value of university for potential students currently considering their options, whether they are about to leave school or considering a university course later in life.’