Oxford has largely managed to resist a fall in the number of applicants for entry in 2012.
Figures published this week show that applications to Oxford, Cambridge and those for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science have fallen collectively by just 0.8% on last year’s figure.
This figure, taken on 15th October – the deadline for these applications, contrasts favourably against the number of applications made to UK universities in general, which stands at 9% behind the figure taken at the same time last year.
This overall fall in applications coincides with the first intake of UK students who are forced to pay an average annual tuition fee of Â£8,390, but who could be paying as much as Â£9,000 per year to study. Indeed, this drop becomes 12% when foreign students are factored out.
Of the 7,000 fewer students to apply, the most significant falls are to be seen in the number of female students and mature students making applications, with a 20% drop in the number of prospective students over the age of 25.
The number of applicants from Wales has suffered similarly, falling by 8.3% compared with last year. However, Welsh universities will not increase their tuition fees until a year after English universities. Consequently, National Union of Students (NUS) has expressed concern that Welsh applicants considering Welsh universities are unaware that the increases will not affect them this year.
However, while City University London and the University of Manchester have seen huge falls of 41.4% and 16% respectively, others have recorded significant increases in applications. Warwick’s figures are around 10% higher than at the same point in 2011, with Edinburgh and St Andrew’s witnessing significant increases as well.
Universities UK has stressed that taking a consensus at such an early stage in the applications process is likely to produce “unreliable indicators”, but if this figure turns out to be an accurate representation for entry in 2012, they will see the lowest number of university applications for 30 years.
Many Oxford students are not surprised, however, that Oxford has not experienced a slump in applications. Third year St. Hilda’s student Francesca Kellaway told Cherwell that this is down to the fact that “The education here is unique and students get a lot for their money. Even with the increase in fees, students still won’t be paying what an Oxford education is worth.”
Twenty-eight institutions have, in fact, informed government regulators that they are re-assessing the tuition fees figure they initially intended, in an attempt to make their courses more affordable. It has yet to be seen if prospective students will prioritise the affordability of a course over its reputation.
Third year Magdalen student Andrew Barrowman believes that tuition fees shouldn’t influence your choice of course or university. He told Cherwell that “You can’t put a price on your education. Applying for the course that is right for you should be your top priority. I wouldn’t sacrifice the quality of my education to pay a little less at the end of it”.
Oxford University has accordingly made significant attempts to soften the financial blow to its current applicants by appropriating more funds to financial support.
A spokesperson for the university told Cherwell how it intends to spend more than any other English university on access. More than Â£11m is to be spent on financial support, student services and outreach in the 2012-13 academic year alone and will increase with time.
“One in six students will receive a fee waiver and a quarter will receive a bursary, based on current student profiles. The lowest-income students will receive support totalling Â£10,000 in their first year and over Â£6,000 in every later year.”
“Oxford offers the most generous financial support for the lowest-income students of any university in the country. The University is committed to access for all, regardless of means, and is putting serious money behind that commitment.”