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Gove Wrong Again

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When he allowed universities to charge students up to £9000 a year in tuition fees, Michael Gove said that the increase wouldn’t put students off. Here are the latest data from Ucas:

1. Total applicant numbers at this stage of the cycle are 7.4% lower than at the same point in 2011.
2. The number of applicants from the UK has decreased by 8.7% overall. Applicants have decreased from all UK countries: England (-9.9%), Northern Ireland (-4%), Scotland (-1.5%) and Wales (-1.9%).
3. The number of UK 18-year-old applicants (the largest single group) has decreased by 3.6 per cent compared to 2011, representing a drop of just under 8,500 people.
4. Applicants from EU countries have decreased (by 11.2%) but there has been an increase in applicants from outside the EU of 13.7%.
5. Applications have decreased to institutions located in England (-8.5%) and Wales (-9.3%) but are nearly unchanged in Northern Ireland (+0.1%) and Scotland (+0.2%).

Scottish universities don’t charge tuition fees to Scottish students.

Comments on “Gove Wrong Again”

  1. Phil Edwards says:

    I’m intrigued by the increase in non-EU applicants – a substantial increase in absolute terms, not just as a proportion.

  2. lapsangsouchong says:

    Look, I’m a university admissions tutor (in a small way), and I’m afraid these statistics won’t do. Applications were unusually high last year precisely because everyone knew that in 2012 the fees would be monstrous–our courses are packed. Therefore, automatically, this year sees a fall. It’s the comparison with the previous few years that matters: say, 2005–10. By the same token, the rise in applications in Scotland in 2011 presumably wasn’t as high (because not driven by fear of ‘nine grand a year’), which would explain away much of the difference with England.

    I don’t like Gove or his government and I’m opposed to their higher education policy (opposed enough to be seeking work outside Britain, as it happens). But I’d like the argument against them to be based on solid evidence, not lazily spun statistics.

    • Thomas Jones says:

      Applications weren’t ‘unusually high last year’. According to Ucas:

      This End of Cycle report records a year of admissions which was, in many respects, very similar to 2010. We show that there was no evidence of any off-trend application rates as widely anticipated in the media as a result of the impending changes in HE funding and tuition fees for 2012.

      Here’s a chart from Ucas showing application rates rising since 2004, with a slight dip in 2006.

      (Though even if you were right what you say would only support the idea that high fees are a deterrent.)

      For more substantial arguments against the government’s higher education policy, see pieces in the LRB by Keith Thomas, Michael Wood, Stefan Collini, Howard Hotson, Iain Pears and Stefan Collini again.

      Oh, and the last paragraph of this piece by David Runciman, on ‘Blair’s characteristic verbal tic’, may be worth a read too.

      • lapsangsouchong says:

        I wasn’t making an argument in favour of high fees, I was just hoping for a more solid argument against them. The first two paragraphs of your reply provide it, and eliminate the fishy smell.

        As for the high rate of admissions last year, that was partly extrapolating from the experience here in my department, and partly drawn from this article a little earlier in the admissions cycle:
        –though I see that it doesn’t provide evidence to support the claim that “circumstances conspired to drive up demand for a university place to unprecedented levels in 2011”. On the other hand, it’s right to want to dig a bit deeper into the statistics–even if doesn’t seem to mind when it notes that the high fees regime is closing the education system to mature students.

        (And yes, I’ve read those pieces, I’m hanging out on the LRB blog because I’m a subscriber, not because I’m a troll. Thanks for the slap-down.)

  3. Mark C says:

    Wouldn’t “Gove Still Wrong” have been a better title?

    I think it would only be newsworthy if he was actually ever right about something

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