Ucas figures for the 2012 university cycle have revealed the impact of the rise in tuition fees. There were almost 54,000 fewer students beginning courses this year than there were in 2011. Students accepting places at universities in England dropped by 6.6%
Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘The headline numbers in this report signal the challenging environment for recruitment in 2012 for some parts of UK higher education. However, the underlying findings are more subtle – for example, although demand for higher education has fallen in England, the actual entry rates for young people are close to trend.’
She also spoke of her concern that ‘women remain more likely to enter higher education than men’, with 257,000 women starting university this year, compared to 208,000 men. The chief executive described the trend as a ‘striking and worrying finding.’
Not all figures were in decline: acceptance rates in Wales went up by 5.3% and rates of entry for disadvantaged 18 year olds increased in the UK.
Over 350,000 students have been accepted into college and university placements as the 2012 A-level exam results were released.
This year’s results marked the first time in 20 years that the number of students receiving top marks declined; 26.6% of students were awarded an A grade – down on the 27% achieved in 2011. However, the overall pass rate for exams has risen to 98%, a statistic which has increased year on year for the past three decades.
Top marks for drama exams rose, with 3.7% of students receiving an A*, compared to last year’s 3.6%. But the number of A grades awarded for drama A-level exams dropped by 1.5%.
This year’s successful university applicants will be the first to pay the uncapped tuition fees, with some courses charging £9,000 per year. This has resulted in a 7% fall in the number of students applying for university places.
Universities minister David Willetts dismissed the long-term relevance of the dip in applicant numbers: ‘There is a long-term trend for more and more people to aspire to go to university and for more and more employers to look to employ people with higher education qualifications and I personally don’t think, taking the long view, that trend has suddenly stopped.’
UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘Despite the fall in applications this year, entry to higher education remains competitive and we expect to see an active Clearing period. Over 25,000 courses are showing vacancies for UK applicants. More than 50,000 people found a course in Clearing last year.’
Students interested in Clearing are advised by UCAS to speak ‘directly with the universities as soon as possible’. There are details of the courses available on the UCAS and The Telegraph websites.
Cook offered advice to students still searching for places: ‘It is important that all students research course requirements thoroughly and think carefully before making a decision that is likely to affect their future career. Anyone considering applying again next year can research 2013 courses on our website now.’