APPLICATIONS to Victorian universities have fallen sharply for the second year in a row, prompting fears that the recent hike in tuition charges by the federal government has exacerbated a trend which started in the early 1990s.
The state received almost 5,000 fewer applications than last year, about 8 per cent. In 1995, applications were also down by 8 per cent, reflecting a nationwide decline that began in 1992.
In August the federal government increased charges under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme for all courses and introduced new fees for certain disciplines such as medicine.
Victoria's application slide is only slightly more acute than it is nationwide. The Australian Vice Chancellors' Committee said universities received a total of 235,250 applications this year, a decrease of 7,200 or 7 per cent on 1995.
The fall in applications could soon make it difficult for faculties to fill courses and leave them facing stringent financial penalties.
Victoria's admissions centre reported that no qualified student who had applied to a number of universities would have failed to find a place.
In fact, after the final round of offers virtually no eligible Victorian student missed out and many faculties were forced to drop their cut-off scores to fill courses.
Next year faculties will, for the first time, have their government grants cut if they fail to fill their courses with enough students.