For the first time since university tuition fees were initially increased to £9,000 a year in 2012, UCAS applications have fallen. The five percent decrease in the number of UK students applying for university has been primarily caused by a drop in nursing applications. There have also been fewer applications from EU nations.
However this drop is not unprecedented. In 2012, when the government decided to increase annual tuition fees from £3,290 to £6,000 with an upper limit (that has become the default cost of a degree) of £9000, there was a drop in the number of students applying to university.
Similarly, this year, the anticipated yearly £250 increase in tuition fees is thought to have contributed to fewer applications.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) says recent cuts in nursing students’ bursaries and grants have contributed to a 23 per cent fall in applications for the course.
The RCN General Secretary Janet Davies said they had warned the government that introducing fees and loans would cause a sharp fall in applications.
Davies has described the situation as dire, stating that the “nursing workforce is in crisis.”
The UK’s decision to leave the EU is also thought to have had an impact on student numbers. There has been a seven percent fall in the number of applications from EU students.
Combined with the five percent drop in the number of UK students applying, there has been a total fall in applications of about 564,000.
Other student groups have also seen a drop in applications. Mature students seemed less inclined to apply to university, with nine percent less 19 year olds and 23 percent less 25 year olds applying this year.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the costs of higher education and Brexit, Universities Minister Jo Johnson said that, “More young people than ever are choosing to go to university, with record application rates for 18-year-olds this year as well as those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”