While a UCAS report released yesterday showed an almost 9 percent decrease in the number of UK students applying for university places for 2012 in October, applications to Oxbridge have bucked the trend with a mere 0.8 percent drop.
The report compiled data from all the applications that were due by 15th October, namely, the applications to Oxbridge and to medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine courses, as well as early applications that were submitted before the final 15th January deadline.
Although the financial background of candidates applying to universities was not released, some speculated that the reasons for the drop lay with the fee hike. “This is why there was so much anger and frustration amongst students last year,” said Aydin Emre Dikerdem, a second year History and Politics student and student activist. “We knew the fee hike would have a psychological impact on students and create an atmosphere of economic uncertainty that would impact their self worth.”
However, despite speculation about what the report means for the future of higher education in the UK, UCAS insists that the numbers at this time do not reflect the full picture: “Year-on-year changes for all courses at this early stage in the cycle are often different from the position later in the cycle.” Most students applying for university places next year have till 15th January to submit their applications, and any clearer indication of the impact of government higher education reforms will emerge after that date.
Second year Law student Charlotte Tarr said: “I’m not surprised that there’s no significant change to the Oxbridge and medicine applications: because of the fee rise, there’s a sense that if you’re going to university you need to make it worthwhile – get your money’s worth.
“I was always told that there are three careers that will always be needed- teachers, doctors and undertakers, so studying medicine ensures job security. And I think that people are likely to apply to Oxford, regardless of fees, because of the concept of a deferred reward – it’s hard work and a lot of money now, but it’ll be worth the investment in the future.”
Some students remained sceptical that the fee hike would have a significant impact on the number of university applicants. John Waite, a first year material scientist, said: “I don’t agree with the fee hike and I don’t think students should pay for university education. But I think that the increase isnt necessarily a big obstacle to going to university because there are student loans and you can pay your debt back over a long period.”
Come next year, students from the UK and EU countries will be liable to pay increased tuition fees, from the previous cap of £3000 to up to £9000 a year. Following the last tuition fee hike in 2006, when fees rose from £1,000 to £3,000 a year, applications initially fell by 4.5 percent. However, they then went on to rise by 7.1 percent the following year, and by 2009 applications had soared by 10.1 percent.