Published on January 22, 2014 | by Callum McCarthy0
Student numbers fall after higher fees hit homeThe number of first-year undergraduates enrolling at UK universities dropped 17 per cent in the year following the rise in tuition fees, with part-time enrolments being the hardest hit.
86,000 fewer students went into part-time education in 2012-13 compared to the previous year, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
The fall came after Chancellor George Osborne announced in December that he would be abolishing a cap on places at UK universities, a move that is to be funded by the sale of the student loan book.
According to UAL vice-chancellor Nigel Carrington the university succeeded in filling places on its full-time undergraduate courses in 2012-13, but also saw a decline in its number of part-time students from 680 to 425.
The HESA report has prompted grave concern over the state of higher education under the coalition government.
“The government’s claim that the new fees regime hasn’t been damaging to access to education is a lie,” said NUS vice-president Rachel Winstone.
“It is time for this ongoing decline in part-time education to be acknowledged as a crisis,” she added.
The Office for Fair Access (OFFA), which safeguards higher education opportunities for poorer students, was said to be “deeply concerned.”
“The Government’s claim that the new fees regime hasn’t been damaging to access to education is a lie.” Rachel Winstone
“Part-time students are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said OFFA director Professor Les Ebdon. “Higher education can be a life-changing opportunity, and no one who has the ability to go to university should be excluded from doing so because they have a job or a family to look after.”
HESA also reported a significant drop in applications from students in the EU, India and Pakistan. The Government have attempted to clamp down on what they call “bogus students”, but Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge has warned that anti-immigration rhetoric could scare foreign students away.
“Some of the reforms and rhetoric around immigration in the past have led to damaging, and often misleading, headlines overseas about the ability of genuine international students to come here to study,” Dandridge said.