THE NUS has described a drop in the numbers of students going to university as ‘deeply worrying’, and has called on the Government to re-think their ‘disastrous’ policy.
The figures released today by the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show a drop of 3.7 per cent in the number of students going places for university in 2006, the equivalent of over 15,000 students or the entire population of Coventry University.
NUS President Gemma Tumelty said: ‘Today’s figures have confirmed our suspicions – that top-up fees are having an effect on some students’ choices, deterring some from going to university altogether.
‘What we really need to know now is which social groups are being affected.
‘Survey after survey has pointed to the fact that it tends to be the students from poorer backgrounds who are more likely to be put off by high levels of debt.
‘Recent figures show that in 2004-05, progress in widening participation had already been halted, with the number of students from lower socio-economic groups actually decreasing.
‘What is particularly worrying is that these figures came before top-up fees were introduced.
‘Our concern now is that what was a bad situation will simply get worse, particularly if the £3,000 cap on fees were to be lifted.
‘In that eventuality, an education system could easily be envisaged where some students could afford the best, some would be forced to make do with the rest, and some could afford nothing at all.’
She added: ‘Education should be a right, not a commodity, and the decision of whether to go university should never be taken on the basis of cost.
‘Alan Bennett was right when he said tuition fees were morally wrong, and he was right when he said that history would judge the policy as a mistake.
‘That is why thousands of students will be marching through the streets of London next Sunday – to let the Government know it is a mistake we will not take lying down, and to demand they rethink their disastrous policy.’
The demonstration will be in London on Sunday 29th October, culminating in Trafalgar Square.
The vast majority of students will be damanding the abolition of all tuition fees and the restoration of students grants for all.