9 July 2012

million+: biggest drop in university applications from mature students

million+, the university think-tank, has raised concerns about the drop in university applications for 2012-13 from mature students but said that students can still apply to university through Clearing. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has reported a 7.7% drop in total applications, with a 10% drop in applications from England. The latest statistics, the last before Clearing, confirm a decline of 11.3% in applications from prospective students over the age of 21 with the biggest downturn from those over the age of 23. This pattern has been consistent throughout this year. The think-tank has also challenged whether UCAS should draw conclusions at this time on the impact of fee changes on more disadvantaged groups.

Professor Patrick McGhee, Chair of the university think-tank million+ and Vice-Chancellor of the University of East London, said: “Studying at university remains one of the best ways to get a career and a job. The drop in applications from mature students is a real concern and will jeopardise the Government’s growth and social mobility agenda if it becomes a long-term trend.”

Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of million+ said: “UCAS uses a limited methodology of deprivation which focuses on the applications of 18 year olds who want to study full-time. They now make up less than half of the student cohort and it is premature to reach any conclusions about the impact of higher fees on the background of students. This will only be known much later when information about enrolments is available.

However, the UCAS statistics make clear that there is no correlation between applications and fees charged. Applications have fallen when they would normally increase at a time of high unemployment but there may not be enough funded places overall. Students also appear not to be interested in the market that the Government has been trying to promote. There is still time for people to apply to university and Ministers should be doing more to make this clear.”


Notes to editors:

  1. million+ is a leading university think-tank, working to solve the complex problems in higher education www.millionplus.ac.uk. For more information please contact Drew Lindon on 0207 717 1655 or 07900 277819.
  2. Full details of the latest statistics from UCAS are available here