Record drop in student numbers

There was a record fall in the number of people taking up places at university this year, according to figures released today by UCAS. Nearly 54,000 fewer people started courses in autumn this year, compared to 2011, an 11% fall.

The total number of applicants for places in 2012 dropped by 6.6% from the previous year to 653,000. Overall, 464,900 people were accepted for full time undergraduate courses in the UK, 27,100 fewer than in 2011, a drop of 5.5%.

Commenting on the report, UCAS Chief Executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said: “The headline numbers in this report signal the challenging environment for recruitment in 2012 for some parts of UK higher education.

“However, the underlying findings are more subtle - for example, although demand for higher education has fallen in England, the actual entry rates for young people are close to trend.”

The figures are the first clear picture of university admissions following the rise in the maximum fees institutions can charge. UCAS said in its findings that the fall in people taking up places could partly be explained by a demographic dip in the number of 18-year-olds, and partly by the fact that the 2011 pre-higher fees figures were boosted by applicants who may have otherwise taken a gap year. More 18-year-olds may have chosen to take a gap year in 2012 now the fees are in place.

Nielsen BookScan Total Consumer Market (TCM) statistics for the eight weeks to 3rd November 2012, covering the "back to university" period, show the academic market as a whole fell by 9% year on year, to £45.5m. Revenue from the top 10 academic publishers was down 10% to £28.1m.