Market forces keep them away

February 19, 1999


Government plans to promote sub-degree qualifications could be undermined if the latest applications slump is due to people refusing to pay up to Pounds 1,000 for anything less than a fully fledged degree, writes Alan Thomson.

The latest figures from UCAS show that applications from United Kingdom and European Union residents to do Higher National Diplomas at further and higher education institutions are down by 10.1 per cent, some 7,400 fewer than last year.

The figures, released to institutions for planning purposes, show that HND applications from non-EU overseas residents are down by .4 per cent, from 2,8 to 1,653 as of February 12. The combined fall in home and overseas applications is 10.6 per cent.

The figures fly in the face of the government's drive to expand the numbers of people gaining sub-degree qualifications such as HNDs and the lower level higher national certificates. Education secretary David Blunkett wants to see an extra 16,000 people doing sub-degrees in the 1999-2000 academic year and a further 35,000 in the year after, with most of this expansion taking place in further education colleges.

The UCAS figures cover applications to full-time higher education courses such as degrees and HNDs wherever they are taught. But many HND students apply directly to an institution rather than go through UCAS.

A spokesman for the National Union of Students said: "The market is truly in play and students have to think hard about what they can pay and what they can get for their money. It may be that they think HNDs are not worth it."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment rejected the NUSarguments. She said: "Substantial numbers of HNDstudents apply direct to colleges and not through UCAS. It is to further education colleges that the government is looking to for the expansion in HNDs and HNCs, so it is early days."

In the driving seat: Simon Clarke, a second-year HND music technology student, tries out one of the studios at Doncaster College steve doherty 6 newsThe Times HigherJfebruary 19J1999 The Times HigherJfebruary 19J1999news 7 Ben Thompson 'Lucky, the last of the pool frogs, died of old age last month' Institution Home degree students Total 1999 % change on 1998 Institution Home degree students Total 1999 % change on 1998

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