Falling University Applications: a Resurgence in Apprenticeships?

Charlotte Bettley

Last week it emerged that university applications have fallen by 6.3 per cent, an overall reduction of 41,000 compared with two years ago. Although the deadline for applications has not yet passed unsurprisingly many are drawing a link between these figures and the new university fees of up to £9,000-a-year. If this trend continues it could have a devastating impact on social mobility, as students from less wealthy backgrounds are deterred by higher costs. Schools, universities and organisations like IntoUniversity must ensure that students are aware that most will not need to pay upfront, that financial support is available and that loan repayments (which are now smaller) will not begin until the graduate has a well paid job. Wendy Piarr, director general of the Russell Group, has also pointed out that 'most graduates earn a considerable salary premium over those with two A-levels', something which must be stressed. 

A more positive take on this story is that the higher fees are encouraging school-leavers to assess whether going to university is the most suitable path for them - Andrew Marszal writes that many are now turning to apprenticeships and non-traditional qualifications to help them achieve their aspirations. For many, these pragmatic - and cheaper - routes can be just as successful, if not more so, than a traditional university education. These paths should be seen as a valid way of entering different professions, rather than being associated with academic-underachievement.

It is vital that school leavers are given enough information about the options open to them and that once they have chosen a suitable path students are given adequate support to help them achieve their goals. 

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