Irish ap­pli­ca­tions to UK uni­ver­si­ties drop for fifth con­sec­u­tive year

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - Si­mon.baker@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­

Un­der­grad­u­ate ap­pli­ca­tions to UK uni­ver­si­ties from the Repub­lic of Ire­land have dropped for the fifth year in a row, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est data from the ad­mis­sions ser­vice Ucas.

The down­ward trend, mark­ing a de­cline of 31 per cent in the num­ber of peo­ple who have ap­plied from the coun­try this year com­pared with 2012, means that Ire­land is now be­hind France and Italy in terms of un­der­grad­u­ate de­mand from other Euro­pean Union coun­tries for UK uni­ver­si­ties.

The UK’s near neigh­bour had been re­spon­si­ble for more than a sev­enth of ap­pli­ca­tions from within the bloc six years ago but now makes up only 9 per cent.

In to­tal, there was a rise of 3.4 per cent in those ap­ply­ing from other parts of the bloc by the Ucas 15 Jan­u­ary dead­line, but this masks huge fluc­tu­a­tions in in­ter­est from dif­fer­ent na­tions.

An­other coun­try that had been a ma­jor source of ap­pli­ca­tions for UK uni­ver­si­ties but has seen a big fall is Cyprus. About 2,800 ap­pli­ca­tions had come from the na­tion two years ago but this fell by al­most 16 per

cent this year to fewer than 2,400. How­ever, this was just a big oneyear change and ap­pli­ca­tions have not been on a long-term down­ward trend like those from Ire­land.

Lewis Purser, di­rec­tor of aca­demic af­fairs at the Irish Uni­ver­si­ties As­so­ci­a­tion, said that the pat­tern was partly due to the in­crease in un­der­grad­u­ate fees in English uni­ver­si­ties in 2012, but there was also “a Brexit un­cer­tainty is­sue” around the fu­ture of cross-bor­der study within the EU. “I think the pop­u­lar dis­course and po­lit­i­cal con­text around Brexit are also act­ing as turn-offs for po­ten­tial Irish stu­dents, and Irish fam­i­lies ob­serve with dis­may what ap­pears to be go­ing on in UK pol­i­tics at the mo­ment,” he said.

Other coun­tries that make up a rel­a­tively large pro­por­tion of ap­pli­cants from the EU but where there ap­pears to have been a sig­nif­i­cant long-term drop in de­mand are Swe­den (down 21 per cent since 2012) and the Baltic states of Es­to­nia, Latvia and Lithua­nia (col­lec­tively down 22 per cent since 2012).

The coun­try from where most EU ap­pli­cants to the UK come is now France, which over­took Ire­land two years ago. This year, al­most 4,600 peo­ple from France ap­plied to UK cour­ses by the Jan­u­ary Ucas dead­line, a 44 per cent in­crease on 2012.

How­ever, the steady rise in ap­pli­cants from France has been sur­passed by prospec­tive stu­dents from some south­ern Euro­pean na­tions.

The num­ber of peo­ple ap­ply­ing from Italy has gone up 68 per cent in the past six years, and the big­gest growth in de­mand from any EU coun­try where there were more than 1,000 ap­pli­cants this year has been from Spain, where num­bers have gone up 140 per cent since 2012 to more than 3,300.

The other coun­try that has seen a up­ward trend in re­cent years, and is seem­ingly un­af­fected by the UK’s de­ci­sion to leave the EU, is Poland. The num­ber of ap­pli­cants from the east­ern Euro­pean na­tion has risen al­most 130 per cent since 2012 and was up 23 per cent this year. It is now the fourth-big­gest source of ap­pli­cants for UK uni­ver­si­ties from other EU coun­tries.

Not cross­ing the Repub­lic of Ire­land had been re­spon­si­ble for more than a sev­enth of ap­pli­ca­tions from within the EU six years ago but now makes up only 9 per cent

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