There has been a record fall in the number of students going to university this year, according to figures released today by university admissions body UCAS.
Almost 54,000 fewer students started degree courses this autumn compared to last year, the report by UCAS shows.
This year’s cycle is the first under the new tuition fee system – and half of all places taken up were on courses with fees around the £9,000 mark, the maximum fee universities can charge.
There was a drop of 6.6% in the number of applicants from England being accepted at a university somewhere in the UK. Northern Irish students accepting places was down 3.7%, while students doing so from Wales and Scotland rose by 5% and 0.3% respectively. The total number of UK applicants also fell, by 6.6%.
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Behind the student numbers
UCAS suggests that the drop in 2012’s intake can in part be attributed to a disruption in deferral patterns, as 2011’s applicants decided against taking gap years in order to miss the fee rises, while numbers taking a gap year this year has risen again.
Taking these and other 2011 factors into account, the levels of young people in England taking up university places are actually ‘consistent with trends since 2006’, according to UCAS.
University courses asking for lower grades saw the biggest fall in students, with 30,500 (-14%) fewer acceptances than last year. Acceptances into selective universities (those typically asking for higher grades) fell by 7,300, down 7%.
Gender gap widens
Amongst UK 18-year-olds, women are a third more likely to enter higher education than men, the figures show. Women are also more likely to apply to university than men.
However, the number of students from disadvantaged areas who were accepted for entry to more selective institutions increased significantly this year, reaching its highest recorded level.
UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘The continuing increase in participation from more disadvantaged groups is very encouraging, as is the absence of any signal that they are turning away from higher fee courses.’