The number of British students applying to go to University has dropped by almost 44,000 according to figures released by Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
The 8.7 per cent drop in applications to start courses this September compared with 2011 coincides with tuition fees reaching their highest ever level – up to £9,000 per year.
Universities Minister David Willetts argued that school-leaver applications from the most disadvantaged areas had not been hit by the fees increase – saying that there was only a decline of 0.2 per cent.
“It is encouraging that applications from people from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds remain strong,” said Mr Willetts.
But Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers’ union, said the “figures are very worrying and once again highlight the Government’s folly in raising tuition fees to as much as £9,000 a year.”
“Applications in England are down over 50% more than in any other part of the UK as a result of the Government making it the most expensive country in the world in which to gain a public degree.”
There have also been signs of an increase in UK students applying overseas. Maastricht University in the Netherlands, where fees are £1,500 per year, is reporting a surge in applications. The University is forecasting that they will receive 600 applications from UK students during the current admissions cycle.