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The Society for Research into Higher Education

Ian Mc Nay


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Applications to UK universities: digging beyond the headlines…

By Ian McNay

‘Record numbers apply to enter higher education’ was the good news reported at the end of the first application period in January by most papers – I have not seen one to query this, but I have not checked them all. The March figures are now out, almost unreported, and confirm what was true in January: applications are up on last year, by just over 2 per cent. The increase for the UK is lower than that, at about 1.6 per cent.

That is good, but the claim of a record depends what you count and compare with. The secondary headline was that this record showed that high fee levels had had no impact, implying that the record applied where fees had been raised. Not true. Continue reading

Ian Mc Nay


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Lies, damned lies and spin; never mind the statistics

By Ian McNay

Press reports, 31 January, on UCAS statistics on the 15 January deadline showed remarkable unanimity around telling, shall we say…not the whole truth:

–         Girls lead the way as degree applications hit record levels – Times

–         Record numbers of 18-year-olds apply to university – Telegraph

–         University applications hit record high – Guardian

The Telegraph had a second story claiming the number of applicants aged 20 and over had increased by 5%.

All this gave comfort to [English] ministers who claim that high fees have had no long term effect on applications. So, let us look at the longer term and compare the cycle for 2014 entry Continue reading