Figures show the biggest fall in university applications in more than 30 years, 9% below last year’s level, according to UCAS. From the 26 universities that provided figures, 15 universities reported a decline in applicants with one university, City University London, saying applications were down by more than 10%.
The figures are the first evidence of how would-be students are being put off by fear of debt when fees rise to a maximum of Ã‚Â£9,000 next year. Some schools report teenagers from poorer families are proving more hesitant about applying than middle-class pupils. This will concern ministers, who claim their finance package is designed to favour the least well off.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics on Post 16 education out later this week are expected to show an increase in the number of young people interested in apprenticeships and school-leaver recruitment schemes run by professional firms as an alternative to university.
Sarah Thwaites, Deputy Chief Executive of Financial Skills Partnership, said, “Young people may see apprenticeships as an attractive option due to rising university costs. They can be seen as part of the solution to bridge the so called ‘skills gap’ identified by George Osborne, and there needs to be more co-operation across a myriad of stakeholders. We believe that employers and training agencies need to be actively involved in bridging this gap.”
More young people are now looking at alternative ways to enter the job market. They are keen to identify opportunities whereby they can enhance their CVs and differentiate themselves from the competition.
Sarah Thwaites said, “We know from first-hand experience and our strong relationships with careers advisers and teachers, that young people are confused as to where to start to find out about opportunities. We have recently launched the Directions portal which enables young people to obtain first-hand experience of the world of work in financial services, accountancy and finance. They get to access the opportunities that our sector can offer, understand the skills and behaviours that our industry wants, and build crucial relationships with their future employers. Such initiatives are vital in giving young people the right start in their chosen careers.”