University officials have admitted they are “concerned” after York suffered a drop in number of applications for the third year in a row. Despite having fewer applications, the number of students accepted to the University has continued to rise.
Statistics released to Nouse show the University has suffered below average growth in applications for five consecutive years, of which the number of applications has fallen for the last three. Between 2005/06 and 2008/09 the number of applications to York fell from 21,441 to 19,385 – a drop of 2,056.
Despite falling numbers of applications, the number of students accepted has risen steadily in the last three years, going from 2,376 in 2005/06 to 2,745 in 2007/08. Acceptance figures for the 2008/09 academic year are not yet available.
Applications for 2008/09 were 15% lower than the previous year across all departments excluding Law and Film, Theatre and Television, which were both created in 2007. Of the 24 departments in existence during 2007/08, 21 saw a decrease in applications. The departments of Educational Studies and Electronics were the worst affected, with both seeing drops of 44%.
A UCAS spokesperson said that applications across the country fell by 7% in 2008/09, largely due to the decision to reduce the number of choices an applicant can make from six to five. The 15% drop seen at York is 8% higher than the national average.
University Press Officer David Garner admitted that the increase in number of applications accepted was linked to the Heslington East expansion. He said: “The University is committed to growth, and with the establishment of new departments, we expect to see a rise in applications and a rise in enrolled students.”
Garner denied that the combination of falling applications and increased acceptances meant less qualified students were being accepted, saying: “Applicants to this University continue to be of a very high standard.”
When asked whether the University was concerned by the size of the fall for 2008/09, Garner said: “We are concerned about any dip in applications and the University is working hard on specific subject areas that have seen a downturn in applications. We are looking at the provision of courses and how we market those courses within those subject areas.”
Professor John Robinson, head of the Department of Electronics, said the 44% drop since 2007/08 was being investigated by senior department officials. He said: “The fall in applications this year is a big question for us, and we’re being very careful not to jump to conclusions. Despite falling applications we know that York offers some of the best programmes in the country.”
Since the University was granted permission to proceed with the Heslington East expansion in May 2007 student concerns have grown about the value of a degree from York. One second year English student, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I don’t think it’s a good time to be a York student. So much time and money is being spent on Heslington East and as the University increases in size it’s hard to see how the quality of students accepted won’t drop and the value of a degree from York with it.”
YUSU President Anne-Marie Canning dismissed concerns over the rising rate of acceptance and falling rate of applications. She said “Heslington East is going to make York a more attractive choice. If people are worried about this they need to get a life.”
Vice-Chancellor Brian Cantor has previously denied that the campus expansion is having a negative impact on current students. Speaking at a public briefing on in March he said: “I don’t think the quality of the University has deteriorated in any sense at all in that period, in fact on the world tables we’ve gone up. I don’t really accept the premise so I can’t honestly say that the Heslington East expansion has had any bad impact on us.”