Titan, on 08 September 2012 - 06:11 AM, said:
Sorry, and I hate to go off topic but whilst some very valid points have been made about the Uni tuition fees, to say not many people have been put off is incorrect. I work in the industry and many (if not most) unis have struggled this year including some red brick universities who usually wouldn't have a problem and have done some unexpected things to meet their numbers (eg contacting previously rejected applicants)
Yes, but the issue won't be clear until next year.
In 2011, anyone who might have considered standing pat on their A Levels and re-applying in 2012, or taking a gap year, or (as a mature student) had been vaguely considering applying to university but hadn't quite got around to it, would all have piled in to "beat the fees". As it happens, Latecomer's analysis of the impact of the raised repayment threshold is accurate, and it's not entirely obvious that someone taking full loans was in fact better off under the old scheme in anything other than the very long term, but the perception was "buy now before prices rise", and there were metaphorical queues for UCAS forms in the way there are literal queues at petrol stations on budget day.
So the 2012 university cohort is missing a large number of people from the 2009 GCSE cohort who would normally be there, plus some mature students, because they formed part of the 2011 university cohort. You can try to model this, but there isn't a lot of statistical history to work on. I believe I'm right in saying that applications people seeking admission in 2012 at age 18 were about where they would always have been, but there's a whole load of other applications missing from 19 years olds and older.
There's also the elephant in the room that 1993 was a peak in the UK birthrate and it's downhill from there to 2005. That's why primary schools are suddenly such a major issue: they were closing in large numbers because of a shortage of numbers, and it's now only just starting to come up. So even in the natural course of things, if you keep take-up roughly constant home undergraduate numbers would be dropping by 15% between about now and about 2023 before hopefully rising slightly. And amongst the traditional recruiting grounds of selective universities that rise in the birth rate is simply not happening.
The places that are going to have problems are those that don't have a substantial local catchment, but which also can't demand AAB (this year) or ABB (next year), but which want to charge £9000. As an example of a university which didn't go into clearing this year and still filled all their places, Birmingham have a significant number of students living at home and is also able to demand AAB pretty much across the board. It can therefore, if it wishes, take advantage of the government's scheme that courses with those achieved admission requirements can expand. Somewhere that has a higher rate of students living away from home and which can't demand those sorts of grades, but which also wants to charge £9000, for example Southampton, is in a very difficult position.
It's also worth comparing Universities today with the last time there was a sudden drop in the birth rate. Have a play with population pyramids here
but the opening screen tells you what you need to know: there was a fertility boom in the mid-1980s, but 1990--2000 the birthrate plummeted, such that there will be about 120000 fewer 18 year olds in 2018 than there are today (15%).
Likewise, 1964 was a peak year and over the following ten years there was a 20% drop in the number of eighteen year olds. There were a lot of places to fill, as the Robbins Report had kick-started the building of the "concrete and glass" universities, before the falling birthrate had been observed. But university take-up was overall low when that process started, less than 10% in 1980. And it was vastly gender imbalanced, more than 65% male. But a variety of factors (ROSLA, abolition of the 11+, feminism) meant that although from 1983 onwards, the numbers of 18 years old fell year on year, there were more people doing A Levels, especially women, and the universities not only kept their admissions at previous levels, they continued to expand. To cite Birmingham again: there were about 2000 undergraduates in the mid 1950s when my parents were there, about 7000 when I was a student in the mid 1980s, and about 16500 now that I'm back
having a mid-life crisis
doing a PhD.
But today, there isn't an obvious pool of people not currently going to university who could easily be encouraged to do so over the next five years. The under-represented groups are under-represented for reasons that will be difficult to fix in less than a school cycle (ie, you might manage it for current five year olds), and those under-represented groups are where the drop in the birthrate has stopped and reversed. The rise in birthrate from 2000 onwards is precisely amongst under-represented groups, and there's good reason to believe that amongst the groups that do send their children to university as a matter of course, the precipitous drop from 1987 to 2001 is continuing. My impression is that the universities understand this, but know there's not a lot they can do about it. We might see a rise in the number of foundation year courses, and some universities might look to cross-subsidise those, but it's not obvious that you can fix in a year problems that might beset people who otherwise wouldn't go to university: if it were that easy, schools could solve the problems for themselves during compulsory education.
There has been huge misreporting about it, as you say repayments are lower and there seems to be an impression that universities can charge what they like. Conveniently forgetting that courses have always cost this much, it's just before the government paid for large chuck of it so no one really was aware of it.
I'm a bit cross with some of the opponents of the new scheme. Even at my daughters' school (100% into HE, pretty much, as it's a massively academic school with largely pushy parents) there are a couple of kids now saying that they can't afford to go to university because they "can't pay" the fees. Upon delicate probing, it turns out they believe their parents need to write a cheque for nine grand of fees each year on top of maintenance. It's irresponsible, I think, of supporters of wider access to university to give this impression to people who might not have access to the same quality of advice as traditional attenders, or indeed to their parents. Luckily, it doesn't seem to have had any impact: the one group who are not down in applications this year are 18 year old home students.
And yes the "everyone can go to university" was a labour idea.
Well, up to a point. The original idea was that 50% (or whatever) should have a post-18 educational experience, which included universities, OU, apprenticeships, block- and day-release, the whole gamut. It got translated into "university" at some point and the consequences have not been brilliant.