Universities hit as fee increase deters entrants

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MOST universities in the region which responded to a Yorkshire Post survey have seen their application numbers drop compared with this time last year.

Four universities – Huddersfield, Leeds Metropolitan, Sheffield Hallam and York – have had fewer applications by December for courses starting in 2012 when the higher tuition fees are brought in.

Three universities – Hull, Leeds and Sheffield – did not provide figures while Bradford and York St John have actually seen applications rise.

Most of these universities said that application numbers were increases from two years ago - before higher fees were proposed.

Candidates applying to university now will be among the first year group to be hit by the tuition fee hike which has seen the cap lifted to £9,000-a-year. The number of applications to universities across the UK has fallen by 12.9 per cent official figures revealed earlier this year

The number of applicants from Yorkshire has dropped by 15 per cent with 9,375 people applying down from 11,019 in 2010.

Individual figures for every university will not be available until the new year after the January 15 deadline for applying has passed.

However the Yorkshire Post can reveal that at least four universities have so far had fewer applications than they had by December 2010.

Huddersfield’s figures are down two per cent. At this point last year it had received 9,600 applications whereas this year it has had 9,400. However this is still 24 per cent more than the year earlier.

Universities say this is a more meaningful comparison as last year there was a large increase in applications as candidates looked to avoid the fee increase.

The number of students taking gap years in 2011/12 is thought to have plummeted as deferring study for 12 months would mean paying almost £6,000-a-year more for tuition fees.

Applications in 2009 for courses starting in 2010 are thought to be the last set of figures which were unaffected by the fee increase as students were making decisions before the massive increase in costs was introduced.

Leeds Metropolitan University has experienced a six per cent drop in applications compared with last year.

It had received 17,418 applications for courses starting in 2011 by December last year.

The latest figures show it had received 16,218 applications so far this year.

Although this is down on last year it is an 8.2 per cent increase on application numbers in 2009 for 2010.

Sheffield Hallam’s deputy vice chancellor Professor Cliff Alan confirmed that its applications were down on last year’s “exceptionally high” numbers but “roughly comparable” with the level they received two years ago.

He added: “This is very encouraging, particularly since our entry requirements for many courses have been raised since then.”

A York University spokesman said it had seen a slight drop in applications compared with last year .

Two universities in Yorkshire have reported an increase in applicants compared with last year despite the fee increase coming into effect from September next year.

Bradford University, which plans to charge top level fees of £9,000, has seen a two per cent rise in applications compared with December last year and a 29 per cent increase on two years ago.

York St John has received more than 4,000 applications – a 10.36 per cent increase on last year. The increase is up 37 per cent on applications for courses starting in 2010 and 73 per cent higher than the numbers applying for courses which started in 2009.

Under the new higher education system universities will have the cap on the maximum numbers of students they can recruit cut. However they will also be able to bring in students through two new routes outside of the capped places. Institutions will be able to recruit unlimited numbers of students who achieve at least two As and a B at A-level. The move is expected to give the most popular, prestigious universities the chance to expand.

Universities which charge less than £7,500-a-year for degree courses will also be able to increase numbers outside of their capped limit by bidding for a share of 20,000 places nationally which have been ring fenced for higher education providers that can deliver courses at a lower cost.

York St John is one of three higher education providers in the region who have confirmed that they will aim to bid for a share of the 20,000 places – along with Huddersfield and Leeds Trinity University College.

A York St John spokeswoman said it also expected to increase the number of AAB students it recruited.

York University already has plans to increase its student numbers by around a thousand to 16,000 as it increases the size of its campus.

A spokesman said these plans were unaffected by Government plans to allow universities to recruit unlimited numbers of top students.

A spokeswoman for Sheffield University said it was considering its position under a system where unlimited numbers of the most able students could be recruited.

She said there could be a small increase in the number of AAB students it recruits in 2012.