The drop in applications signals an alarming elitist trend

With the fee hike now coming into effect for prospective students across the UK, the results can already be seen in the drop in applicants. The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) have released their initial statistics for the year; applications are down 12 per cent on figures from this time last year, with a decline of over 7,000 students who consider higher education to be unfeasible.

Although the application process is still in its early stages, the decline in early applications, which are necessary for Oxbridge and courses such as dentistry, are indicative of what’s to come. It’s inevitable that fewer students will apply, as fewer can afford to do so.

At York, applications to the Biology department are also down 12 per cent, thus far. While there are no other figures available for the University itself yet, I see no reason why York should differ from any other university choosing to charge £9,000 tuition fees. Collectively, the universities charging the higher tuition fees have opted to exclude those of lower social class.

The University wins though, that much is clear. With an increase in fees of 300 per cent, and only a drop in applications of 12 per cent, the University is obviously more than happy to exploit the new fees limit for its own gain. It has no interest in the fact that we are excluding academically gifted students from less secure financial backgrounds, but is prioritising the financial security of the establishment instead; for the University, it’s all about the cash.

Yes, there will always be bursaries and grants available through various benefactors, philanthropists, and even the university itself. However, they will never exist in a large enough quantity for all those who would thrive in higher education, but are now no longer able to even consider an application. And for the bursaries and grants that are available, competition will now be fiercer than ever.

These latest UCAS figures should be a concern. As York and other universities across the country, enter into the application process, they will be dealing with fewer applications, of which a greater percentage will be from secure financial backgrounds and the upper classes. Social mobility and integration have been disregarded by the fee hike, and sidelined by the university. Thanks to the University creating entry requirements other than intelligence and determination, we’re to become an exclusive clique. As applications fall, I fear we’ll see York become progressively more elitist. The typical student will become well off, supported by a wealthy family.

As the University skew our society towards those of a higher class, we’ll lose what makes our student body so excellent and interesting: diversity. By driving up the cost of education, we’re destined to lose that element, as those who can’t stump up the mounting costs are turned away. The resulting student body is not one I’m interested in being a part of, and certainly isn’t one I’d be proud of.

Ultimately, the university won’t lower its fees, and the student body will change for the worse. It is sad that we’ll lose what I believe to be such an important aspect of university life, but the real losers here are the 7,000 students (a number is already dramatically increasing) that have chosen not to apply.

These would-be students will go on to flood the low-skilled job market with their A-levels, and grapple with mass unemployment problems that they simply haven’t been prepared for. And as they sign up for job seeker’s allowance, I wonder how many will wish that they could have afforded a chance at higher education?

13 comments

  1. 4 Nov ’11 at 12:53 am

    Muammar Gaddafi

    The only people being scared off by the fees are probably too ignorant to deserve a place anyway. Nobody has to “stump up” the fees as you put it, and everybody can afford to pay it back because by the time they do so, they will be earning LOTS OF MONEY. That’s just a certainty.

    You’re right, the Uni does win, but only cos the bunch of easily led morons that are under the illusion that they will have to search down the back of their sofas to meet the £9000 entry fee at the door will not be gracing it’s lecture halls.

    “It has no interest in the fact that we are excluding academically gifted students from less secure financial backgrounds”. Shullbit. By the time anybody pays a penny, a PENNY of the loan, financial security is coming in the form of 21k a year wage. That’s more than my parents earn individually and they’re doing just dandy. NOBODY PAYS ANYTHING UP FRONT SO THE FINANCIAL SITUATION AT THE POINT OF ADMISSION IS IRRELEVANT.

    A depressingly bad article. First one to call me a troll gets a lollipop.

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  2. It’s hardly surprising there’s been a drop in applications this year compared to last, as the number of applications last year jumped due to the uncertainty over fees, and thus was a higher than normal figure. It’s erroneous to at this stage equate the rise in fees to a drop in applications.

    It’s also rubbish, in my view, to say that “It’s inevitable that fewer students will apply, as fewer can afford to do so.” Any student coming to university doesn’t have to stump up any fees in advance, or during the time they are at university. They only start to pay back their fees when they start earning above £21,000.

    The repayments have nothing to do with how much your family earn now or in the future. It’s based on what you earn, and if you personally aren’t earning $21,000 or above, then you pay nothing. You effectively get a degree for free.

    It would be nice if the ideologically motivated would stop writing scare stories that try to create a self-fulfilling prophecy to prove themselves right.

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  3. Apparently applications fell in the first year after tuition fees were originally introduced, then increased the next year, and continued increasing, in the subsequent years.

    Perhaps we should wait to see what will happen this time. Or we could jump on the hysteria bandwagon.

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  4. This article is ridiculous. Higher fees mean more bursaries will become available, so MORE poor students can come to York. I really don’t understand your logic (John) about not being able to afford tuition fees. Everyone is entitled to a student loan and they pay it back only when they can.

    Please stick to graphics design.

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  5. 8 Nov ’11 at 12:57 pm

    Outraged Student

    I don’t understand how the university increasing tuition fees to the same level as every other top UK university means it is ‘exploiting’ the new system? It is basic economic principle that consumers expect to get what they pay for; if you want a higher quality good, you expect to pay a higher price for it. It would therefore be to the university’s detriment to keep fees low as prospective students would wonder why exactly York cannot command the same price for its education as say, Exeter or Durham.

    That aside, it is still unfair to claim that the university is putting finances before education as we have not yet seen what it is going to do with this increase in revenue. If your point was correct and all the university cared about was money, how do you intend to explain the recent introduction of 24 hour opening times in the library? Surely it would be to the university’s financial benefit to open the library for one hour a day, every other week with the heating and lighting off if that were all they cared about. If 2012/13 brings with it not just higher fees, but higher quality teaching, resources and facilities, which I do not think it unfair to presume, then you cannot possibly justify the above claims.

    I wonder how many of these would be students would appreciate your patronising comments, you pompous, self-righteous upper middle-class twit? To suggest in any way them ending up claiming JSA is anything to do with them not attending university is not only laughable, but offensive. If they cannot compete in the low-skilled job market with (only) ‘their A-levels’, how do expect them to survive and succeed in the cut-throat world of graduate recruitment? If they are the sort of person who will be employed after uni, they will be able to be employed currently as well.

    I’m not even going to bother listing the number of things you have managed to get embarrasingly wrong how tuition fees now work, but I would suggest you (and anyone else interested/unsure about the subject) go to this website: http://studentfinance-yourfuture.direct.gov.uk/?

    To conclude, as has been intimated above the people who aren’t applying now are of no loss to the university or the job market; if they aren’t driven or interested enough in higher education to properly research how student finances currently work and the options available to them (a fault the author is also glaringly guilty of), then they clearly have no real desire to come to university. It would be fairer and actually lend this article some relevance to wait until at least one year under the new fees system has passed before we start blasting the university over its money-hungry ways, and in no way, whatsoever, at all, does this have anything to do with class; the suggestion so made is quite simply insulting.

    Enjoy your future life writing columns for the Guardian in between bouts of anti-government protests, furtive public masturbation and struggling with your sexuality, you Marxist.

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  6. 8 Nov ’11 at 6:33 pm

    Jonathan Frost

    @Outraged Student

    Just to come back on a few of your points…

    The majority of your comment is perfectly reasonable, and consists of points that I accept.

    However, as for “patronising comments”, you are way off. You make wild assumptions about my social bockground, which are also incorrect. I claimed jobseeker’s allowance for a period of time before coming to university. It’s a wholly depressing experience, and I grappled with the problem of getting a job with A-levels unsuccessfully. I had no intention of coming across as you seem to interpret.

    Secondly, I’m in charge of comments on the Nouse site. I was happy to approve your comment because I feel it adds something of value to the debate. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    However, please don’t resort to personal attacks. It devalues your whole argument, and comes across as childish. I only allowed it on the site because it’s about me personally, and I found it pretty entertaining. In future, please avoid it though; if it’s about another author, it won’t go on the site.

    Jonathan.
    (Guardian columnist, upper-middle class twit, Marxist, sexually confused public masterbater).

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  7. @outraged student

    “Enjoy your future life writing columns for the Guardian in between bouts of anti-government protests, furtive public masturbation and struggling with your sexuality, you Marxist.”

    Not only a jealous, bile-coated attack towards an author you know little about professionally or personally, but one that also presents yourself as homophobic. How unbecoming of a student at a prestigious university.

    Shame on you.

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  8. The elitist trend is blatant in situations outside of this. The above comments are indicative. “Obviously the people who think it’s too much money to go to university are idiots.” Bollocks.

    I would not have gone to university for £9,000 per year. I would not want a debt of £60,000 (15 per year including maintenance) to get a degree to make me employable. Graduates will not make that back. The figures of ‘lifetime earning’ are based on a time when few went to university, and is now redundant. You’d make more money working up the system, unless you’re going into a field that specifically requires a degree – but many aren’t.

    Secondly, and more importantly, we’re specifically talking about Oxbridge and upper-end fields (dentistry, medical and veterinary courses)…. so the drop is much more alarming. Anyone who wants to be a doctor shouldn’t be put off, because, as mentioned, you will not be struggling to pay it and there will be more bursaries available for poorer students – but clearly there are Oxbridge candidates and people applying for top-end courses that feel otherwise!

    It is blatantly obvious, given this, that we’ll see a significantly greater drop overall. Biology shouldn’t get as much of a drop as the social sciences, because the average applicant will see it as a better boost. Wait until we hear what the drop-off is for universities in the bottom half of the league table. It might even be as insane as 20-25%, and we know that the vast majority of those will be from poorer backgrounds.

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  9. 14 Nov ’11 at 11:45 pm

    Tom Fisher (ex-Nouser)

    Absolute BS. Please try to understand the facts of the changes.

    Martin Lewis can explain in 3 minutes why this scaremongering attitude is bogus. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15723174

    And from the horse’s mouth… I tried to remove this kind of thing from appearing in the Comment section last year… http://www.nouse.co.uk/2010/12/04/the-hyperbole-of-tuition-fee-reform/

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  10. 21 Nov ’11 at 12:39 am

    Anon. Bystander

    Why does the “university win”?

    State funding is being cut and they’re attempting to offset the loss by having to raise the price?

    Find me some proof that universities are going to, over time, “win”/profit from this change massively.

    What a “wild assumption” you make.

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  11. 21 Nov ’11 at 1:54 pm

    God bless Joe Frazier

    York will come out about £20m/year richer, apparently.

    That’s what Tim Ellis said, anyway. Sounds right to me…

    To do with the fees being higher than they actually cost.

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  12. 21 Nov ’11 at 1:55 pm

    God bless Joe Frazier

    Fees higher than the tuition actually costs, I mean.

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  13. Under old system you pay 9% (roughly) on income over £15k, on new system you pay 9% on income over £21k, so everyone on new system is at least £540 a year better off, debts will last longer but in reality will be much easier to maintain.

    If we take University as purely for job purposes then a graduate has to earn (assuming 45 year working life, £40k debt and £50k missed income due to studying) £2k extra a year on average to make it worthwhile to go to university.

    That’s assuming that the only benefit is financial, which for most people it is not.

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