Tag Archives: University

University Applications ‘Recovery’?

With the UCAS deadline a mere 11 days away, it would seem potential students have simply left it later than usual to apply.

Fears that the higher fees for 2012 entry had led to decreased demand for UK higher education by UK home students now appear unfounded.

Figures from Anglia Ruskin University claim that the level of applications for full-time undergraduate courses is now only 1.98% below the same point last year – representing a big recovery from the 12.5% dip reported in the autumn.

“Lies, damn lies and statistics”

Though critics point out that the dramatic statistics presented in the media this year were derived as a comparison of last year’s university applications figures, which were unusually high.

The fee change encouraged students in a position to apply to university last year to get on and apply.  Gap years were cancelled and indecisive potential students finally bit the bullet and joined in too.

This time last year, it was up 11.7% and today it is down 12.9% [as recorded in November 2011].  Could this be more of a re-adjustment and cancellation out of last year’s anomalies.

Moreover, as illustrated in the post Is University Still Worthwhile?, some universities have now decided not to charge the full £9,000 to incentivise prospective students to apply.

What do you think?

Were the figures misleading? Are students just applying later? Are UK universities really under threat from reduced demand from UK home prospective students?


Is University Still Worthwhile?

University Student

The Uni Years: No Longer A Given

They’re supposed to be the best years of your life.  Away from home, high on life, willing to experience anything and everything, and maybe – just maybe – learning about a subject that genuinely interests you.

But this year the looming UCAS deadline provides the focus for many a difficult dilemma.

18-year-olds up and down the country must weigh up the cost of a university education against its benefit.  A sum that only seems to get more complex.

UK home tuition fees have gone up a dramatic 200 per cent for students entering in 2012.

Increasingly the graduate premium is restricted to those who graduate with upper seconds, or  even firsts for subjects like law.  Even then more emphasis is being placed on university rankings.  If you’re unlikely to get a ‘good’ degree from a ‘good’ university is it worth investing 3 years and £27,000 tuition fees?

Then again the latest figures show unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds has increased by 54,000 to 1.03 million, the highest since records began in 1992, perhaps it’s better to delay joblessness for three or four years.

Reducing university education to a question of economics seems to miss the point, but the very idea of tuition fees unfortunately blinds many prospective students to this view.

However evidence suggests prospective students have been put off.  It doesn’t matter if, as David Willetts, universities minister, argues, the debt is only perceived debt and contingent on how much monetary benefit you actually receive from your degree.

Welsh Subsidies

Devolution has given Wales the power to offer generous subsidies to Welsh students from 2012.

A spokesman for Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Minister for Education and Skills, said:

If you normally live in Wales and are going to university next academic year you will be no worse off than if you had gone to university this year.

We do not support full-cost or near full-cost fees for higher education. We also do not believe that higher education should be organised on the basis of a market.  We are preserving the principle that the state should subsidise higher education and maintain opportunities for all.

A university education is still a worthwhile investment.  Graduate employability is a key outcome of the higher education experience.  Research shows that on average graduates still earn more than their peers, and are still more likely to be in employment.

The Student View

A quick whip round the Student Union bar at Cardiff University returned, perhaps unsurprisingly, the consensus university education remains beneficial but the increased fees will focus the choices of students with graduate prospects a key consideration.

Oh, and it’s not my fault trainee journalists permanently inhabit the bar.

Postgrad Lis worries that we’re getting to the stage where young people might want to think before going to university.

It used to very much be an extension of school and the normal thing to go and do, whereas now I know a girl who is very very clever but not going to university and I think it’s because of the high fees.

First-year Luke says he’s not enjoying his studies yet, but if he wasn’t at university he’d be working.  He says he may as well try and do something different for a while.

It’s totally unfair but there’s nothing we can do about it the country’s in debt and people have to pay for it.  Maybe it will filter out the people who just want a free life for a bit.

First-year Ed did not take a gap year to avoid the high fees for 2012 entry.  He would still recommend his course in spite of high fees “it’s worthy”.

I’ve got friends in the year below me and the fee increase makes them consider taking a gap year because they want to experience their time elsewhere before going to university.

First-year Daniel says university was a natural choice and thinks it’s still an important aspect of life.  He doesn’t view the debt as that bigger deterrent when actually at university.

You’re coming out with £20,000 plus worth of debt it’s important to do something with prospects.  Law, maths, the sciences those type of degrees I reckon will become a lot more popular.

Postgrad Charlotte has reservations recommending university given the massive debts students will incur, but does not think choosing vocational degrees is a way around the problem.

Just because you do a more vocational degree doesn’t mean you’ll get a job at the end of it.  If you do English you’re still just as likely to get a job in my eyes.

Universities Overview 2012

Combining the fees table compiled by the BBC and the university rankings from Complete University Guide and plotting them on a map it is clear almost everywhere is charging the full £9,000.

View University Tuition Fees and Rankings 2012 Map in a full screen map or in a full Data Table.

As of last week (December 2) it was announced that some universities were cutting their tuition fees because they needed to fill places.

Here are the revised fees.

For students entering in 2012, university is no longer a given but a carefully balanced equation and a risk.

Do you think it’s worth it?


Welsh Government Response To Student Finance Questions

I contacted Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills, with a few questions on how they were subsidising higher education.  This is what they said:

Dear Beth,

Many thanks for your questions to the Minister for Education and Skills, Leighton Andrews.

Please find your questions with answers below. I hope this is of help to you.

1. Why is the Welsh Government continuing to subsidise higher education?

The Welsh Government will be providing £3.6 billion to support students during the lifetime of this Assembly, in addition to the funding it will continue to provide to universities through the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.  The Government believes that higher education represents a public good – one which benefits both the individual and society.

We believe it’s imperative that we stick up for our students and help them wherever we can and that’s why we’ve put in place the most equitable student finance system we’ve ever created.

We have a responsibility to Welsh-domiciled students, wherever they choose to study. We are preserving the principle that the state should subsidise higher education and maintain opportunities for all.

2.  Could you clarify for me how far this subsidy extends. Are Welsh students at English universities included? Are English students at Welsh universities included?

The Welsh Government will implement the pledge that no full-time undergraduate student ordinarily resident in Wales will pay higher fees in real terms during the lifetime of this Government than if they had been students in 2010/11. This will apply no matter where the student chooses to study, in Wales or elsewhere in the UK. Therefore the following tuition fee support will be available to Welsh domiciled students whether they study in Wales, England, Scotland or Northern Ireland:

  • A non means tested tuition fee loan of £3,465
  • A non repayable, non means tested grant of up to £5,535 (if fee is £9,000) to cover the remaining balance of tuition fee charged.

The Welsh Government is not responsible for providing tuition fee support to students ordinarily resident in other parts of the UK.

3. Have you met with any criticism from the House of Commons for proposing the policy?

Higher education is a devolved matter.  Control of fees charged to students by higher education institutions in Wales and associated student supportarrangements for students ordinarily resident in Wales are the responsibility of the Welsh Government.

4. In your opinion how much should higher education cost the student?

The Welsh Government will provide additional tuition fee support to students ordinarily resident in Wales from 2012/2013. This means that students will be able to apply for a tuition fee grant to cover any fee above £3,465.

We do not support full-cost or near full cost fees for higher education. We also do not believe that higher education should be organised on the basis of a market.

5. Should all degrees cost the same?

The fees charged for a particular degree are a matter for individual institutions, within the fee limits prescribed in regulations by the Welsh Government.

6. In the last couple of days it was announced that some universities were lowering their tuition fees to attract more students. Do you think this is testament to high fees restricting access?

The recent announcements have been made by institutions in England in response to the UK Government’s arrangements for controls on student numbers.

7. What do you make of the argument that high fees will not impact on a student’s decision to go into higher education because fees are not paid up-front?

The Education Minister’s message to students thinking about going on to higher education is if you normally live in Wales and you are going to university next academic year you will be no worse off than if you had gone to university this year.

8. Do you think the opportunity cost of going to university is too high now, or are we still living in a world where the graduate premium counts

As important as the quality of the learning experience is to students, so too are the opportunities that higher education opens up later in life. In For our Future,we said that graduate employability is a key outcome of the higher education experience. This is an area where Wales has a good record. Even in a tough labour market, around three-quarters of people qualifying from Welsh HE institutions last year were working six months after graduation, and only six per cent were assumed to be unemployed.

A university education is still a worthwhile investment. Research shows that on average graduates still earn more than their peers, and are still more likely to be in employment.

9. What are your recommendations for prospective students? Where should they be applying, what should they study, or perhaps they should only apply if they can get into a ‘good’ institution and earn a marketable degree?

It’s important that students who want to go on to higher education are well informed about the options available to them as well as what financial support is on offer for them to access.

We’re currently providing all schools and colleges in Wales with a package of information to share with potential students. We would actively encourage teachers to engage with learners to make sure they have all of the information they need to make informed decisions.

We would encourage all prospective students to visit the Student Finance Wales website www.studentfinancewales.co.uk   A quick guide to support available to new full-time Welsh HE students in 2012/13 is available via the headline banner. A Student Finance Wales Information Notice providing more information about support for 12/13 will be placed on the website shortly.


David Willetts Interview In The Guardian Highlights Education Bet

David Willetts seems to have emerged from the tuition fee fiasco unscathed, which is rather remarkable considering he is the minister for universities.

Perhaps being possibly the only Tory MP happy to speak to The Guardian has helped him in that respect.  Decca Altkenhead commented on his likeability and popularity on the left in her interview with him published last Saturday.

What becomes apparent just a few paragraphs into the interview is that Mr Willetts has based all his estimates on the amount the Government will have to cough up for student loans on baseless assumptions.

Prospective students will work for a year before starting university to save up £2000?  Students won’t rely on their parents for funding?

He offers “a modest bet” that when the figures are finally in, his estimates “won’t be too far off what happens”.  But he admits: “No one can know, I can’t know.”

Thinking reflective of most education policies to come out of recent years I’d say.  And unfortunately the exact thinking all prospective higher education students and young graduates must adopt.

From as early as 16 people have to make the education bet.  Do they invest their time in A Levels? Invest their money (or future money) in higher education? What about work experience – is it worth self-funding a placement all summer and loosing out on potential income because it might get you a job eventually?

With the fee hike, these questions are becoming even more important and their consequences harder to reverse if deemed undesirable in the long run.

Higher education needs to be a worthwhile investment now financially more than educationally and socially.

But how do you know if it’s worthwhile until afterwards?  Maybe even many years afterwards?

Has the worth higher education become merely a hypothetical?

What do you think? Given the current conditions would you make the education bet?

I am planning a more in-depth post on whether or not higher education is still worthwhile – or if popularly thought worthwhile.  Hopefully I will be able to speak to Leighton Andrews Welsh Assembly Member and Minister for Education and Skills, does anyone have any questions for him?


UCAS Proposes Post-Result Applications

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) released its admissions process review yesterday (31 Oct 2011).

One idea to come out of this review is to make A Level students wait until after they get their results to apply to university.

Paul Stanistreet, More, Different and Better:

There is, overall, a lot to welcome in the proposals. A post-results process would be simpler, less chaotic and, in principle, fairer than the present system, in which applicants provide a combination of predicted grades, personal statements and teacher references. Research cited by UCAS shows that just 52 per cent of predicted grades are correct. Across three A-levels fewer than 10 per cent have all three predicted correctly, meaning that many students who might consider reviewing their options in the light of their results are denied the opportunity.

But there are concerns that the implementation of the largest overhaul of university admissions in 50 years coincides with other equally dramatic shake-ups to UK education policy.

Ed, Oxbridge Essays Blog:

The timing could not be worse. With tuition fees soaring to £9000 and every university individually rewriting its own funding and bursary support packages, university applicants, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, are already being bombarded with chaos and confusion.

The UCAS consultation suggested that the current system of university applications favoured pupils at private schools.

Cribsheet 31.10.11:

UCAS says the university admissions process favours pupils at private schools. They are encouraged by their teachers to apply to institutions well ahead of the official deadline which can improve their chances of being offered a conditional place. They have the information they need to help them make decisions early, and they are advised by specialised tutors with good university connections.

What do you think?  Is UCAS on track with its proposal for a post-results application system?  Is the current system biased towards private school pupils?