Figures released by UCAS today reveal a significant drop in university applications across east London boroughs, with applications from Hackney dropping a whopping 14.6 per cent.
According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), applications from Lewisham were down 11.8 per cent compared to last year, whilst Croydon experienced 9.3 per cent drop. In Tower Hamlets, applications fell by 7.7 per cent.
The figures, which relate to the mid-January deadline for most undergraduate university courses, confirm fears that students are being put off going to university by the prospect of huge debts. UCAS reports that applications to UK universities have witnessed a fall of 8.7 per cent, the steepest fall in decades.
The data comes just over a year after London witnessed mass student protests over cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and the proposed rise in tuition fees. In December 2010 the Coalition government narrowly won a vote in the House of Commons allowing universities in England to charge up to £9,000 for the annual tuition costs of undergraduate degrees.
East London universities were hit worse than the national average, with all higher education institutions to east of Westminster experiencing a drop in applications of over 10 per cent.
Marlon Gomes, Head of Admissions at Queen Mary said: “We expected applications to fall with the increase in student fees for 2012, and an increase in entry tariffs across most of our programmes, so although some courses experienced a drop in applications, we were pleased with the influx of applications to Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. Our 16 per cent increase is particularly impressive when compared to a reduction of over 3 per cent in Medicine and Dentistry applications to other UK universities.”
According to the Guardian, languages and art related subjects have witnessed the biggest falls in applications, with non-European languages down by 21.5 per cent and creative arts and design courses down by over 16 per cent. Figures at Goldsmiths and the University of the Arts bear this out but an unofficial source at Goldsmiths said that as a result of a surge in late applications the figures are a lot better then they appear.
Another reason for the overall drop is a significant drop in applications from mature students.
Reacting to the drop in applications in Hackney, Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, told EastLondonlines: “Under this government, in Hackney, we’re seeing big rise in the number of young people on the dole, and a significant drop in University applications. It’s a perfect storm for young people in Hackney, because the Government is costing the economy jobs, whilst bulldozing over education opportunities – kicking away the ladder. The brutal price our young people are paying for this government’s economic policy is now crystal clear. The verdict is in: this government is failing an entire generation.”
Jamie Duff, teacher at Brooke House Sixth Form College in Hackney told EastLondonLines: “The biggest factor putting students off going to university is the rise in tuition fees and the huge debts that come with it. But the removal of EMA has also had a knock-on effect. At our college, 75 per cent of students were in receipt of EMA. Across the board, 6th form colleges have seen numbers drop as a result of cuts to EMA. I believe it’s a mixture of people not doing their A-levels and people put off by the rise in tuition fees. “
Toni Pearce, Vice President of the National Union of Students, said: “The indication is that the confusion caused by the government’s botched reforms is causing young people to at the very least hesitate before applying to university.
“The significant reduction in applications from mature students is a warning sign and government needs to quickly take their concerns on board or else risk those people falling away from education for good.”
Figures released by UCAS yesterday are indicative of the changes but do not paint the full picture for the 2012 intake, as students can still apply for most courses through UCAS until the end of June.