Fewer Brits heading for Uni

There’s more evidence 2012 will be a boom year for gap years.

Applications for UK university places are down 9% from this time last year. UCAS, the University and Colleges Admissions Service, has revealed that just under 70,000 people have applied for 2012 places. At this time last year, the number was almost 77,000.

The number of older students applying for university has dropped even faster. From those aged over 25, applications have dropped by 20%, and from those aged over 40, applications are down by 28%.

2011 was the last year for which tuition fees were capped at £3,000. Next year that cap moves up to £9,000.

Most universities and colleges are expected to try to charge up to or close to the new limit next year. But some experts predict fees will fall for 2013 as demand drops off, particularly for less prestigious courses. The latest numbers from UCAS add weight to that theory.              

Toni Pearce, vice-president of the National Union of Students, told the BBC: “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.”

David Willetts, the Universities minister, told the BBC: "It is too early in the applications cycle for data to reveal underlying trends - the main UCAS deadline is not until January. 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.”

Jo Barnard, director for Quest Professional, a training a recruitment company, said: "Graduate unemployment figures show that there is no guarantee of finding a job after university with employers increasingly questioning the value of a degree. In order to stand a better chance of gaining employment, it is vital that students get as much practical commercial experience as they can, either on a gap year or most certainly during university summer breaks. 

"We find that so many young people are questioning the value of studying one specific field for three or four years at university with all the associated living and tuition fee costs. A common question on everyone’s minds is ‘is it really worth it?’"

What do you think? Are you thinking of taking a gap year over going to university? What do you think of the tuition fee reforms?