Scottish universities avoid student slump caused by £9k fees
SCOTLAND’S universities have avoided the worst of a slump in application numbers ahead of the introduction of fees of up to £9,000 a year.
Figures released yesterday by the admissions service, UCAS, showed the number of students applying to start university this autumn has fallen by 8.9 per cent across the UK.
Just over 50,000 fewer students have applied to start degree courses from September, compared with the same point last year, the statistics showed.
However, while the number of English students applying to study anywhere in the UK fell by 10 per cent, the corresponding figure for Scots was just 2.9 per cent.
The figures also showed that Scottish universities had been spared the worst of the falling numbers, seeing a 1.7 per cent drop in Scottish applicants and 5.5 per cent fall in those from England. In contrast, English universities, where all students will pay fees, saw a 15.7 per cent fall in Scottish applicants and a 10 per cent fall in those from England.
From the start of the next academic year, students will be required to pay new higher-rate tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. However, Scots and EU students from outside the UK will remain exempt if studying at Scottish universities.
Overall, Scotland’s universities saw a 0.1 per cent rise in applicant numbers, although this was due to a 6.3 per cent increase in EU students and an 18.6 per cent jump in those from the rest of the world.
While foreign students from outside the EU pay some of the highest fees to study in Scotland, EU students will continue to receive a free higher education. That is not the case in the rest of the UK, leading to falls of more than 17 per cent in the number of EU applicants in England and Wales.
Graeme Kirkpatrick, of the National Union of Students (NUS) in Scotland, said: “What these statistics clearly show is that where fees go up, whether for students studying down south or students from the rest of the UK attending universities in Scotland, applications have suffered. They clearly demonstrate the predicted effect tuition fees would have on entry to education, and for this disaster the Westminster government has no-one to blame but itself.
“The Scottish Government has a part to play as well. With legislation coming forward in the near future, we’ll be looking for it to change the disastrous fees regime for students from the rest of the UK and ensure minimum standards of bursary support.”
Yesterday’s figures give the numbers of people submitting applications before the final 30 June deadline. After this point, students have to enter clearing to gain a place.
UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: “This in-depth analysis of the 2012 applications data shows that, although there has been a reduction in application rates where tuition fees have increased, there has not been a disproportionate effect on more disadvantaged groups.”
A Scottish Government spokesman added: “This shows that our decision to keep access to university free for Scottish-domiciled students, combined with our work to reform post-16 education in this country, is very much the right approach.
“This is good news for our universities and students, particularly as figures have shown Scottish students have less debt than their UK counterparts.”
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