Gap year boost expected as uni applications fall

UCAS’s monthly figures have reported that university applications are down by 13% compared to this time last year.

The figures show the number of students who have applied for places at UK universities is 158,387, down 23,427 on this time last year.

It is thought that the rise in university tuition fees is the cause for the slump in applications.

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.

UCAS says there may be a late surge nearer the January 15 deadline.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS chief executive, told the BBC: “Recent changes in higher education funding mean that application patterns this year may be different to previous years and we are gearing up for a possible late surge close to the 15 January deadline where applicants have taken more time to research their applications.

"We expect some depression of demand due to a decline in the young population but it is much too early to predict any effects from changes in tuition fees.”

Liam Burns, NUS president, said: “Ministers must stop tinkering around the edges of their shambolic reforms, listen to students, teachers and universities and completely overhaul their white paper before temporary chaos turns into permanent damage to our education system."

It is thought that there will be a boost in the number of pre-university students taking gap years in 2012 due to the rise in tuition fees and these UCAS figures certainly add weight to the theory.

Are you thinking of taking a gap year over going to university in 2012? What do you think of the tuition fee reforms?

For those of you thinking of a gap year then read this case study on an unplanned gap year. It's pretty inspiring.