‘Campaign must be launched’

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“The government must launch a national campaign to reassure students that university is affordable” is the message coming from a university chiefs.

University of Bedfordshire vice chancellor and former Minister of State for Higher Education Bill Rammell this week highlighted sector-wide concern at the down-turn in university applications.

Mr Rammell said: “The latest figures published by UCAS show that we have the lowest number of applications in the last seven years.

“For a generation under successive governments, even alongside the introduction of fees and variable fees, participation in higher education (HE) increased substantially – up more than 40 per cent in the 20 years from 1990 to 2010.

“And the proportions accessing HE from the lowest socio-economic groups rose the fastest.

“That’s because there was a relentless message about the benefits and affordability of going to university.”

The HE sector was expecting application levels to bounce back for 2013, after a dip in 2012 alongside the introduction of £9,000 fees. But it has instead plummeted further.

Mr Rammell added: “Bluntly, the bounce-back isn’t happening, and we can all speculate as to the reasons.

“Students may be taking longer to assess their options. Costs may be putting off some students.

“They may be getting mixed messages from the government about the benefits of apprenticeships.”

The University of Bedfordshire exceeded its targets for 2012-13, which Mr Rammell says is due to the fact the university made sure students that six months after graduation 90 per cent of students were in further education or work.”