Cambridge worth the cash: applications soar despite fee rise
Cambridge applications up by 2%, including a 3% rise in applicants from state schools, despite a national fall of 9%.
Sixty four universities are set to charge the full £9,000 fees this year, including leading institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge and University College London. Education experts have claimed that the introduction of higher tuition fees is responsible for a decrease in university applications nationwide, although the number of students applying to Oxford and Cambridge has actually risen considerably.
Figures released in July by UCAS show there was a two percent increase in university applications to Cambridge during the last academic year, despite the nine percent drop in applications nationally, which showed that one in twenty students chose not to apply to university at all.
These statistics suggest that university entrants are more concerned about value for money, ensuring that Oxford and Cambridge entrance has remained as competitive as ever. Government ministers have interpreted this as a vindication of their choice to increase tuition fees, insisting that the application rates for 2012 are “the second-highest on record”.
Steph Spreadborough, a Pembroke fresher, feels that the changes to the fees have not affected her particularly: “I knew I wanted to go to Uni anyway, and although obviously I’d have preferred life without the massive debt I didn’t really feel I had any choice, because I wasn’t organised enough to look into going abroad, and I wanted the reputation of a British degree. I think it might have encouraged me to apply to Cambridge though – if it’s costing £9000 a year I may as well try for as good a degree as possible, and if I’m honest the change made me more annoyed at the government than universities.”
Perhaps most interestingly the rise in Cambridge applications was not limited to those from more affluent backgrounds. Vicki Hudson, the CUSU Access officer, was quick to point out that “despite the fear that students from non-traditional Cambridge backgrounds could feel that Cambridge is even further from their reach, there has been a 3% increase in state school applicants this year. Whether or not this is because students are now looking for value for money, what it is most important to remember is that Cambridge is a very diverse environment and has extensive financial support packages available.”
In fact, students from state schools saw the second highest increase in applications as a demographic, only behind international students whose application numbers rose 13 percent compared to the 2011 intake. This throws considerable doubt onto claims made by opponents of the fee rises when initially discussed. The negative effect they were predicted to have on state school pupils and access work in particular being one of the key arguments used against them.
A spokesman for Cambridge University said: “We believe that these figures represent the University of Cambridge’s long-standing commitment to recruiting the ablest and best qualified students with the greatest academic potential from every background.”
The University has also increased its financial support for those from the lowest income backgrounds over the past year. This year for the first time, there were 136 new National Scholarship Programme bursaries awarded to Cambridge students, each worth £6,000. These were given as fee waivers to students from families with a household income of less than £25,000 and were run simultaneously with other previously established University bursary schemes. These include the Newton Trust Bursaries which can be up to £3,400 a year and are awarded to anybody whose family’s income is below £25,000 or is in receipt of a government funded maintenance loan.
Dr Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor of Clare College, and a member of the NSP panel which considered applications for this most recent bursary scheme commented that “While Cambridge is not a particularly expensive place to live or study, by taking part in the NSP we hope to provide additional reassurance to students from low-income families that taking up a place at Cambridge is affordable.”
Despite applications to top institutions rising, though, a recent survey by the NUS showed that only one in ten students were convinced by Nick Clegg’s recent apology for voting in favour of the increase in tuition fees last year. The survey showed that only 11.1% of students were more likely to vote Liberal Democrats in the next election as a result of the apology and 46.9% were less likely to vote for his party after his video apology was released.
More worryingly for a party that once particularly appealed to students as the only party that was against increasing tuition fees, the same survey suggested that only 7.7% of respondents were currently planning to vote for them at the next general election. So whilst University applications themselves may have remained buoyant in the face of higher fees it seems that many current students still feel angry at the government for introducing higher fees at all.