Embargoed: Not for publication before 00.01 hours, Thursday 8 November 2012

HEPI publishes analysis of the  impact on demand of the Government’s HE reforms A report published today (8 November) by the Higher Education Policy Institute, assessing all the evidence that is available so far about enrolments at English universities this year, concludes that it is too early to judge whether the Government’s higher education reforms take as a whole have discouraged students in general, and disadvantaged students in particular,  but that there is no evidence at present that they have. However,  HEPI argues that although increased demand may be a necessary condition for widening participation and fair access, it is not sufficient.  Both the total number of funded places, and the way they are distributed, may turn out to be more important than any changes in demand.

In carrying out this study, HEPI compared the pattern of enrolment over the years immediately preceding 2012 with that around the previous increase in fees in 2006.  HEPI also compared these with enrolments in Scotland, where fees are not charged, and looking in particular at the pattern of deferred entrants – entrants who defer their entry by a year having received an offer of a place, as well as the number of students who apply aged 19 instead of the normal age of 18.

Commenting on the HEPI analysis, Bahram Bekhradnia, comments:

“Taking all these factors into account, our view remains that it is too early to judge whether the reforms taken as a whole have discouraged students in general, and disadvantaged students in particular, but that there is no evidence at present that they have.  Undoubtedly there has been a short term impact as some students brought forward their applications to avoid the fee increase, as there was in 2005-2006.  But the patterns observed are consistent with a return to longer term trends in 2013.  Our report also concludes, however, that we cannot be certain that the new arrangements have had no impact on demand, only that that seems more likely. As more data becomes available the picture will become clearer.”

“The Government believes the new mechanisms for allocating places to universities will increase students’ choice but, as we argued in our previous reports, the opposite is likely to be the case, particularly as funded places are to be reduced from 2011 levels. This makes it even more important to ‘wait and see’ before coming to definite conclusions about the overall impact of the measures introduced from 2012 on student numbers, on access and on widening participation.

Ends

For further information please contact: Bahram Bekhradnia, Director, HEPI

Email: b.bekhradnia@hepi.ac.uk T: 01865 284448 M: 07709484599

Note to Editors:

The summary and full copy of HEPI Report (59) The impact on demand of the Government’s reforms of higher educationby  John Thompson and Bahram Bekhradnia is availabe for download here