Keep that door open (2 of 2)

October 4, 2012

The government's higher education policy is looking increasingly threadbare. In July the myth that trebling tuition fees would have little impact on applications to university was exploded when figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service revealed a 10 per cent fall in the number of applications from UK students to study in English universities in 2012-13. Among 19- to 29-year-olds, the drop was 12 per cent, which suggests that they are being priced out of higher education.

Last week, the government's argument that £9,000-a-year tuition fees are better for poor students because they do not have to pay anything up front was found wanting as research from the Sutton Trust showed that worries about debt are deterring considerable numbers of university applications from single-parent households and older would-be students.

This backed up research from the University of Oxford published in August that showed that two-fifths of sixth-formers were concerned or very concerned about debt they would incur if they applied to university.

The Sutton Trust's research also showed that the government's attempts to improve social mobility are failing as many students think it is more expensive to study at elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge.

It seems that young people have seen through the sham of higher tuition fees, and no amount of apologies from Nick Clegg can change that.

When unemployment among young people is at record levels, it is scandalous and foolish for the government to price young people out of higher education and thus limit their life chances. This country needs all the skilled people it can get - the decline in university applications to study maths, engineering and European languages means England will continue to lag its competitors in key skills.

Martin Freedman, Head of pay, conditions and pensions, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

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