24/10/2011 10:09 BST | Updated 24/12/2011 05:12 GMT

University Applications Slump In Face Of Rising Tuition Fees

Nearly one in 10 A-level students have been put off applying to university while many more potential students admit they are put off by soaring tuition fees, figures indicate.

Applications for university courses have fallen by nine per cent since this time last year, statistics published by the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (Ucas) on Monday. Female applicants are down by 10.5 per cent while the number of males applying has decreased by seven per cent.

Early applications for courses - including medicine and Oxbridge have fallen by less than one per cent (0.8).

Commenting on the the figures, universities minister David Willetts said it was "too early" to reveal any trends.

"It is important no-one is put off applying to university because they do not have information about how the new finance system works.

"Going to university depends on ability, not the ability to pay", he added.

But a survey of more than 1,000 A-Level students found higher fees had "definitely" put off one in 10 from going to university. More than half (54 per cent) said: "[Tuition fee rise] puts me off a bit, but I will probably still go to university."

Martin Lewis, head of the independent taskforce on student finance information said:

"We need to launch a war against student fee confusion. Fear of the changes is almost certainly one of the main reasons behind the drop in early applications – yet there's still time to reach those who've been unnecessarily put off. The frustration is that it’s often based more on psychological factors rather than the likely practical impact on students’ pockets."

The survey was conducted by ComRes on behalf of the BBC and questioned 1,009 16 to 18-year-olds. It found 83 per cent of students disagreed with the statement "I think it's right students should pay more towards the cost of their education," yet 77 per cent still agreed the long-term benefits of going to university still outweighed the cost.

Lewis, founder of added: "We need to help students and parents sit down and truly understand the real impact on them, protected from the political spittle being flung from both sides.

"After all, if you don't know the true cost, how can you decide if it’s worth going to university?"

But Universities and Colleges Union general secretary Sally Hunt hit back describing the fees policy as a "disaster".

“People should study the right course for them, not just the cheapest one or none at all. These depressing figures take us back to the time when it was cost, not ability, that determined your future", she added.