The latest UCAS figures show a 3.5% increase in the number applying for 2013 full-time undergraduate entry to UK universities – though the figure is still down on 2011, the year before the £9000 tuition fee kicked in. Applications from 18 year olds are also up 2% and for 19 year olds 10.5%. (www.ucas.ac.uk/about_us/media_enquiries/media_releases/2013/20130130c)
As Treasury officials become increasingly concerned about the unsustainability of the higher education bubble (www.radicaled.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/as-the-treasury-recognises-its-financially-unsustainable-will-the-university-tuition-fees-bubble-burst/) some Russell university chiefs are now reported to be lobbying for a lower income repayment threshold (www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/may/06/student-loans-repayment-level-lowered) hoping that this will reduce the total number of applicants and free up more government funding for their own institutions, which are also demanding an even larger share of research funding.
With a glut of graduates meaning that the majority of employers now expect applicants to have a degree, combined with a lack of confidence over whether new ‘apprenticeships’ will lead to real jobs, the UCAS figures also show that those from ‘disadvantaged’ areas continue to apply (although women from these areas are 50% more likely to apply than men). So, even cutting the repayment threshold to £18000 as suggested, might not be enough to trigger the Great Reversal in university numbers that David Willetts and Michael Gove really want.