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Less students apply to university after fee increases

Tuition fee increases have led to a “clear drop” in the number of English students applying to university this autumn, the Independent Commission on Fees has reported. 

Average fees this year are £8,385, with many universities charging the maximum of £9,000 per year. One in 20 people were expected to apply this year, leading to 15,000 “missing applicants”. This represents a 7.2% fall in the number of 18-19 year old applicants in England this year compared to 2010. 

Chair of the commission Will Hutton said: “It’s not clear whether those lost this year will return to the fold next year, or [if] it’s a storm warning of a worrying trend. 

“Although it is too early to draw any firm conclusions, this study provides initial evidence that increased fees have an impact on application behaviour. There’s a clear drop in application numbers from English students when compared to their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.” 

However, the commission found that there was no disproportionate impact on disadvantaged students. Furthermore, demand for places still outstrips supply. 

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: “We have always said it would be a tragedy if any young person were put off applying to or going to university because of financial concerns.” 

But universities minister David Willetts said: “We do accept that after a peak last year, applications are down from 31.6% of people applying to university to 30.6%. That is actually still the second highest rate of applications on record.”

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