University demand unaffected by fees

4th September 1998 at 01:00
The latest figures for university admissions suggest fees have not led to the predicted fall-away in student numbers.

The weeks after the A-level results - when students formally accept the offers made by universities - had been seen as one of the final tests of the impact of tuition charges. Opponents of fees have claimed that students would not take up the places on offer when the financial realities hit home.

In fact, the number of students who have withdrawn so far has risen by just 400 or 5 per cent - a drop in the ocean compared to the 275,000 students who on Tuesday had confirmed their places.

A spokesman for UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said: "The numbers withdrawing are slightly up but that could be because we're processing faster." The CVCP said students clearly still regarded higher education as a good investment.

The NUS predicts many students will not turn up when term starts in October, or that they will drop out of courses in greater numbers as debts start to mount.

"Institutions will have to be very sensitive to the financial situation of students in the confusion of the new system. But from the numbers who were trying to charge administration fees it looks like they're not going to be," a spokeswoman said.

The NUS suspects the surcharges were the start of attempts by institutions to wring even more money out of students. The union has promised to name and shame those universities which bend or flout the rules.

Vice-chancellors will be doing their own survey. CVCP chief executive Diana Warwick said: "We will be monitoring the actual costs of administering the new system. If this shows spending in excess of the government's estimate of 5 per cent of the new fees, we will want to press for a better deal."

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