Decrease in poorer students and women applying to university

Early indications suggest that applications from female students and those from poorer backgrounds have fallen ahead of the higher tuition fees next year. According to the first round of Ucas application figures, applications from men were down by 7% compared with 10.5% by women. Worryingly still, the Guardian states that data available elsewhere provided indications that students from poorer areas are being deterred from applying to university by the higher fees.

Patterns in the data indicate that the application rate among mature students has fallen faster than among 17 to 18 year olds. Elsewhere, data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that the age of students on full time undergraduate courses over the age of 21 are more than 50% more likely to come from poorer neighbourhoods compared to those over 21.

Further data indicates regional variations with applications from candidates in the south-east down by 8% compared with 20% from candidates in the East Midlands and more than 17% in Yorkshire and Humber.

Professor Neil Shephard who is research director at Oxford-Man Institute, suggests that the differences in the application rates of young and mature students could be due to variations in the quality of information that they have received: “One might expect young people to be exposed to more information about how income contingent repayment will work than mature students, so they may be less put off than the mature. My own view is that behavioural effects (how we process information) have big short-run impacts and that rational considerations tend to emerge in the longer term (as we learn from the crowd)”.


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