“Shock” over university application drop

Tom Blenkinsop, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland’s Labour Member of Parliament, today expressed concern over the decrease in university applications, with applications dropping in Middlesbrough over 30%.

Official statistics show that applications submitted to UCAS by 21 November 2011 has decreased by 28% in the Tees Valley compared to the previous year. Middlesbrough local authority has seen applications drop by 33.3%, from 180 to 120, whilst Redcar & Cleveland has seen a 13.6% drop. Elsewhere in Teesside, Darlington has faced a 18.7% drop, Hartlepool has faced a 29.9% drop, whilst Stockton-on-Tees has seen applications fall by 33.8%. This compares to a national average decrease of 15.1%, and a regional one of 21.4%.

Tom, alongside Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham and Darlington Labour MP Jenny Chapman, exposed these “shocking” statistics through asking Parliamentary questions to Vince Cable, the Secretary of State of Business, Innovation and Skills, which were answered by Tory Universities minister David Willetts.

Tom said: “These statistics are very disappointing, and it is appalling that deprived areas like Teesside and the North East are showing the sharpest falls. Although applications do not close until 15 January (or later for certain courses), these figures are a very scary preliminary warning.

I doubt it is any coincidence that the number of university applications are collapsing at the same time that tuition fees are tripling to £9,000 per year. Although I would still urge anyone who wants to go to university to do so, these fees seem to be acting as a barrier.

I find it extremely concerning to hear that university applications in Teesside have fallen by a percentage twice the national average, when our local economy will rely on future generations having the necessary skills.

It is not too late for the Government to change their Higher Education policy. I hope they have a look at how it is affecting the aspirations of young people in places like Teesside, and reconsider the merits of tripling fees. I will continue lobbying them to do so, and will keep asking for these statistics to see if this worrying trend continue.”

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