It is reported that applications to UK universities for the academic year 2014/15 have fallen 4% while applications to Oxford and Cambridge Universities have risen. The University of Cambridge received more than 16,500 applications for 2014/2015, the highest number since records began and a rise of around 4% compared to applications for the previous year. Moreover, this rise has been proportionately higher in subjects such as Medicine and Law.
This may be explained by the rise in tuition fees, now of course fully implemented, and the fact that students are dissuaded from studying non-vocational subjects for purely academic reasons. Alternatively, a spike in Oxbridge applicants could be explained by the rising number of top applicants and ever increasing difficulty of distinguishing them.
The reduction in applications across the UK might also be attributed to controversial immigration reforms, which have reduced the number of international students who come to the UK. True to the age of populist politics feeding populist journalism, the Government have been able to tackle absolute numbers of immigrants in ‘quick-fix’ fashion, targeting so-called fake university applicants rather than addressing the underlying problem, but in doing so may have scared away thousands of bona fide candidates and much needed foreign spending.
One thing remains a fact, that the UK’s higher education system remains one of its strongest exports. Seeing students dressed in uniform around the world playing our very British sports may be a legacy of colonialism, but there is also an appreciation internationally for the standard of British educational institutions, or at least its form. Hence the appeal for ‘franchise’ schools abroad including Tonbridge and North London collegiate. Universities and MBA courses have also followed suit, with Nottingham having dedicated campuses in Malaysia and Insead, a business school creating a campus in Singapore as a twin to its French campus in Fontainebleau.