Speaking yesterday at the Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School in East London, the deputy prime minister said fears that the number of students attending university would “plummet” had “failed to materialise” and in fact “the exact opposite has happened”.
According to Ucas, the number of students entering higher education in 2013 rose by around 7 per cent.
But in the previous academic year (2012-13) the number of UK undergraduates fell by 7 per cent to 1,577,440, with a drop of almost a fifth among part-time students, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Mr Clegg claimed that “we now have the highest application rates ever”.
According to Ucas statistics released after the January applications deadline this year, “application rates for 18 year olds for each UK country are at, or very near, the highest levels recorded”.
He said he was “sorry” not to have delivered on the party’s pre-election pledge to oppose an increase in fees, but sought to justify the decision.
“The previous Labour government had introduced fees, increased them and then commissioned a review into raising them again. Clearly the Conservative Party wanted them to go up,” Mr Clegg said.
“And while the Liberal Democrats made a pledge before the election not to increase fees, we couldn’t deliver it. Not a policy that expensive at a time when there’s less money to go around, and especially not in coalition when compromises have to be made,” he continued.