Statistical uncertainty

February 5, 2009

Brenda Gourley's timing was unfortunate (Letters, 29 January). On the day her letter appeared, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills issued a Statistical First Release for 2007-08, showing that part-time student numbers fell by 3 per cent on the previous year, and full-time numbers rose 2 per cent. Her point on the swing to part-time study is still valid if a longer time series is used. The current trend may be a result of government policy on fees and student support.

It is worth noting that if only UK-domiciled students are counted, total enrolments fell for both modes of attendance. That is before the impact of the credit crunch, the passing of the demographic peak of 18-year-olds and news of graduate unemployment. So we may be another industry in decline - unless we do something about it, and soon.

Ian McNay, London.

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