Higher tuition fees are discouraging students in Britain from applying to universities.
According to The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the British admission service, applications for university courses for 2012 have declined 9 percent.
The number of applicants has declined from 76,612 students in 2011 to 69,724 for 2012, UCAS revealed. Excluding applications for foreign students, the number of British applicants plunged by 12 percent.
UCAS data also shows that school applications by older people have fallen even more precipitously – for those aged above 25, applications have dropped by 20 percent, for people in their forties, the figure has plunged by 28 percent.
January 15 is the deadline for applications in 2012.
The coalition government running the United Kingdom has been raising student fees while cutting expenditures on education as part of its comprehensive austerity program.
Last November the government allowed universities to impose tuition fees of up to £9,000 ($14,300). Just prior to that the Treasury said that the higher education teaching budget (excluding funding for research) would be slashed by £2.9 billion ($4.6 billion), or 40 percent, over the next four years.
Student groups have roundly criticized the government for not controlling spiraling tuition fees.
The indication is that the confusion caused by the Government's botched reforms is causing young people to, at the very least, hesitate before applying to university, said Toni Pearce, vice-president of the National Union of Students (NUS), according to Sky News.
Similarly, Sally Hunt, head of the University and College Union (UCU) lecturers' blasted the higher fees.
“The government's fees policy has been a disaster from the start and it is clearly having a serious impact on the choices young people make,” she said, according to BBC.
However, David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, said it is premature to suggest the applications will continue to decline in the face of higher student fees.
It is too early in the applications cycle for data to reveal underlying trends - the main UCAS deadline is not until January, he told British media.
It is important that no one is put off applying to university because they do not have information about how the new student finance system works. To ensure this message reaches all prospective students and their parents we have extended the England-wide school and college tour, with more graduates presenting and evening information sessions for parents.
Willets added that financial aid was available to many prospective college students.
Going to university depends on ability not the ability to pay. Most new students will not pay upfront, there will be more financial support for those from poorer families and everyone will make lower loan repayments than they do now once they are in well paid jobs.