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Thursday, 17 April 2014

South Cumbria applications to university fall

FEWER students across South and West Cumbria applied to go to university since tuition fees were trebled this year – with the biggest fall across the Cumbria recorded in Barrow.

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It appears young people are turning their backs on higher education after the annual cost soared to almost £9,000 for most courses that started last month.

Official figures from UCAS, the university admissions system, showed a 13 per cent fall in applications across Barrow from 2011 and 2012.

Applications across Copeland fell by three per cent and dropped two per cent in Westmorland and Lonsdale.

Workington and Penrith saw a 10 per cent fall and applications were down nine per cent in Carlisle.

John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, said: “These worrying figures show recent progress made in giving more young people in Furness the chance to study has been placed in real jeopardy.

“A degree can still transform your career prospects but I am gravely concerned that families from lower income backgrounds may be looking at the higher cost of university and being deterred, particularly when they see graduates struggling to find work in this fragile economy.

“This highlights the need for the University of Cumbria to be offering more courses in Furness, strengthening the link that has been established with our new state-of-the-art Furness College.”

But the department for business insisted the fall had nothing to do with rocketing fees, which had made the funding system “fairer and more progressive”.

The issue was raised followed the release of the first statistics comparing the number of university applications – from each parliamentary constituency – with last year, before fees trebled.

The figures come as students demonstrated in Westminster on Wednesday, the first since a series of violent protests when the bill hiking fees was passed in 2010.

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: “Families across the country are seeing their dreams of going to university disappear before their eyes.”

Most universities are charging close to £9,000 a year for courses, not the £6,000 predicted by ministers, after state funding for higher education was slashed.

But Whitehall sources said the 2011 total had been artificially inflated by students taking up places immediately – rather than taking gap years – to avoid higher fees in 2012.

And a BIS spokesman said: “Most students will not pay upfront to study, there are more generous loans, grants and bursaries for those poorer families, and loans are only repaid once graduates have jobs and are earning over £21,000.”

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