Note: Published on the 7th of November in the London Student Commentary section.
The drop in applications for university came as no surprise to me, in fact I anticipated it. The trebling of fees to £9,000 for one year of an undergraduate degree, the increased competition to get a place at university, the cuts in the teaching funding by 12.5% (a total of £940m), amongst a number of other things, are to blame. No longer will students be coming for the ‘student experience’. I think that students starting university next year, will not be coming as students- they will be coming as customers. These customers will expect a service, and on that note, a very good one, to justify the amount they will have to pay per year.
In retrospect, the current system may not be up to scratch to handle the new expectations of students, as they will expect a service. It seems like a lot of institutions simply do not know what is going to happen from next year, as they have no idea what to expect. Granted it is new, yet there is a change happening. Universities are now being pushed to diversify their institutions: in order to ‘set’ them apart from other institutions, to catch and grab the attention of potential students and to in some way ‘qualify’ for their funding. For example, more extensive ‘outreach’ programmes in less off areas; offering larger grant schemes to new students, more places or lower fees to less well off students as well as the occasional new campus. The irony of it all is that, in the wake of all this talk of ‘diversifying’ universities, the process to apply to university, via UCAS, has admitted that it favours the rich young people at private schools. Jokes all round then, ey? Nevertheless, the cost of going to university is on every new student’s mind.
For those students who are not very well off (also known as ‘poor’ students), the financial burden of university is often the signifier. University education has become very expensive, at the same time the number of job prospects for young people currently is minimal. It has been noted at this time, one in six young people are not in work or education, and that there are almost a million unemployed young people in Britain. Students who are less well off are being forced in to looking for other opportunities. The number of applications for apprenticeships and other training schemes has particularly increased over the last couple of years, as has the number of young people on the dole. It is clear to see then, that ‘poor’ students are the most vulnerable. Speaking as one of them myself, I can guarantee I would not be going to university if I were going to be charged £9,000 per annual year. It would also change my view of university. Honestly, I would not enjoy it as much as I have. Constantly, there at the back of my mind there would always be this feeling: ‘Have I gotten the most for my money?’, ‘Was that really useful?’, even if I received the same financial aid as I do now. As primarily, I would come out with three times as much debt, which is a huge burden, a burden that some are either not willing or not able to bear. The thought of that debt is one of the principal reasons the figures of university applications have dropped this year. Young people are scared of their future, when in fact; they should be looking forward to it.