University applications in Herts and Beds plummet

THE number of people in Hertfordshire applying for university places has dropped by nearly 10 per cent in just one year.

Last year, 10,266 people in the county applied for university places through UCAS, the organisation responsible for managing higher education applications. But this year, only 9,284 have done so - a decrease of 9.6 per cent.

In Central Beds, the decrease has been even bigger, with 3,053 applicants now compared to 3,492 in 2011 - a difference of 12.6 per cent.

The figures reflect a national trend, with 8.7 per cent less applicants in the UK, 9.9 per cent in England and 10.2 per cent in the east of England.

It follows a policy in which universities can charge up to �9,000 a year for its courses - nearly three times the current price.


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Richard Westergreen-Thorne, director of the Stevenage 14-19 Partnership, said: “It is a worry, and I know the schools have been concerned about it because lots of parents are very worried.

“There was quite a last minute surge, which suggests that parents and families were hanging on, then making a decision at the end.

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“I think people have been working very hard to make young people more aware of what alternatives there are, because obviously there are alternatives.”

Schools and colleges in Comet country, however, appear to be bucking the trend. Many have claimed that they are still seeing as many students applying for university courses.

Jed Whelan, headteacher at Fearnhill School in Letchworth GC said that his students were still applying, although he added more were staying closer to home.

“We have not seen a discernible drop, what we have seen is students are being very specific about which universities they want to go to, and an increasing amount of students going to more local universities,” he told The Comet.

“I think that recognises the quality of those, particularly Hertfordshire. We’ve got more students wanting to go there this year.”

North Hertfordshire College said that it had less students applying for university this year, but that it expected more to apply through late applications.

A spokesman added: “Currently our student UCAS applications stand at 326, however we anticipate reaching the same level of applications as last year which was around 390. We are predicting a similar success rate at around 78 to 80 per cent.

“We believe the level of applicants is a lot stronger with many universities raising their entry level requirements.”

Hitchin Girls’ School and Hitchin Boys’ School both said that the same number of students were applying for university courses, and they hadn’t seen and change in patterns.

Tina Stojko, head of sixth form at the girls’ school, said: “From our perspective, it has stayed the same. Students are picking the subjects based on what they want to do and where they want to go. It doesn’t really seem to have an impact.”

Giovanna Newbury, Sixth Form manager at Thomas Alleyne echoed the Hitchin schools. She said most students were still applying for courses of their choice.

“We’ve always had between 60 and 70 per cent going to university, and although the fees have been raised, that still seems to be the case,” she said. “People are still applying for all sorts of courses.”

Students that have applied do not have to make a decision on their first and reserve choices until May.

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