APPLICATIONS to university from young people in Yorkshire have shown the biggest fall in more than 30 years, in advance of higher tuition fees in 2012.
Figures are down by more than 17 per cent compared with last year, according to UCAS, the body which processes undergraduate entries.
Most universities, including Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam, are refusing to provide their individual statistics at this stage, as the entry process is still in its infancy.
All courses are still open for applications and Hallam says by mid-October on past evidence only around five per cent of forms at most have been submitted.
The universities forecast the situation will become clearer after Christmas with the final picture revealed when the deadline for applications closes on January 15 next year.
A spokeswoman for the University of Sheffield said it was far too early to provide any figures at this stage. But a source told The Star officials there were ‘very anxious’ about the numbers of applications for next year.
“Admissions officials are looking very nervously at the number of applications arriving. Initial signs - which may be misleading - are there will be a decline in applications this year.
“It could be due to a reluctance on the part of students to decide just yet. General attendance at open days was good, no different than previous years - but simply attending at an open day doesn’t necessarily mean any of these students are going to apply.
“There could well be a change in the pattern of applications, too - with more students choosing to apply for courses that have at least some vocational merit.”
Tom Arnold, president of the University of Sheffield student union, said he believed there would be a clearer indication of the application trends by late November.
“At our summer open days numbers attending were up by 30 per cent, which wasn’t what we were expecting,” he said.
“Any decrease in applications will be a concern but we’re hopeful things won’t be as bad as some feared. As students still don’t have to pay fees up front, in some ways that situation hasn’t changed.”
A Hallam University spokeswoman said: “Last year students applied very early due to the funding changes and even then only around five per cent of our total applicants had submitted their forms by October 15. We are talking about small numbers at this point in the application process.”
Firms are reporting an increase in the number of young people interested in apprenticeships and school-leaver recruitment schemes as an alternative to university.
John Watson, production director at Sheffield company Davy Markham, who oversees his company’s apprenticeship scheme, and said he was seeing more and more applicants each year.
“This year the number has increased dramatically. We have five apprenticeship jobs and for those jobs we had 350 applicants.”
At Sheffield Forgemasters applications for apprenticeships rose from 70 to 260 in 12 months.
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