Over a third of school-leavers are unsure about attending uni following coronavirus

News Editor Aimee Seddon explains how coronavirus is causing a change in prospective students' plans...

Aimee Seddon
3rd June 2020
Image: flickr
A study by MyUniChoices, involving 1000 college and sixth-form pupils, has found that over a third of students are now considering not attending university because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The students were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the idea that their plans for the next academic year had ‘changed due to the coronavirus outbreak’. 37% of those who agreed had originally planned ‘to go to university straight away’ before lockdown.

According to MyUniChoices, 4 in 10 students have changed their mind about upcoming higher education, with 22% citing concerns surrounding their personal finances, and 1 in 5 wishing to be closer to their family. 28% have also said that their feelings of uncertainty about the economy have led to their change of plans.

Currently 1 in 8 have already changed the year they will enrol, however, more than 50% of students are anxious about committing to plans during the current crisis, and 3 in 10 believe they cannot think about their future when things are so ambiguous.

MyUniChoices is an app that helps sixth-form students make the right decisions regarding Higher Education, providing information on institutions in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, as well as English speaking courses in Europe. Their findings contrast with a survey conducted on 3rd April by UCAS and YouthSight, which had found that 86% of A-level students who responded were still continuing with their application.

Dr Charles Johnson, chief psychometrics advisor for MyUniChoices, said: “In common with most other people, young people are suffering from a huge degree of uncertainty about the future and this is greatly affecting their immediate plans for what to do after leaving school.

“Those choosing to go to university recognise they are making a choice which will shape their lives for more than just the years that they study, so making the right choice matters. It’s vital that when students choose to go away, they do so with confidence that the time they will spend studying will be in a course and an environment which help them grow and thrive.

“Whether they plan to go away this year or next, it is only right that students pause, take stock and check that the course they want to do is the one which is right for them. Taking a small amount of time to reflect and reassess now is the best way of avoiding making the wrong choice which can be costly from a financial, career and mental health perspective.”

A reduction in the number of prospective students attending in the new term will leave a large dent in university finances. Earlier this month, experts predicted that UK universities could be facing a £760 million loss in tuition fees. Analysis by Martine Garland, a lecturer at Aberystwyth Business school who had previously been on the Executive Board of AQA, revealed that tuition fees constitute 44.73% of Newcastle University’s funding.

18 year old Belle Osler, with an offer from St Andrews University, is one of the students not deferring. She said, “I was lucky that I had an unconditional so my plans weren’t changed that much. However, I was weighing up between a gap-year abroad and going straight to uni but this decided it for me. I would not be able to do the things I wanted and it would complicate plans.

“I am excited to go to uni but as no one really knows what’s happening even next week, I don’t know what to expect. I’m not really thinking about it because no one knows anything, or whether freshers is even on. Classes online would be s*** but Scottish degrees are 4 years so having one semester online won’t be the end of the world. I’ve been chatting to people on Facebook who are also starting at St Andrews so as not to put so much weight on freshers week to meet people.”

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