The number of Welsh students studying at Russell Groups universities has fallen by 10% in the last three years. Figures have dropped from 6,900 in 2012/13 to 6,260 in 2015/16. These statistics come as a surprise, considering that the total number of UK students applying to Russell Group universities has risen by 8%. In 2012/13 103,225 students applied to Russell Groups, rising to 111,555 by 2015/16, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Subjects that have been affected most badly include combined sciences- with applications decreasing 18%, medicine – down 13% and law – falling by 4%.
This decline in numbers for Welsh students comes after the Welsh government’s announcement that they will be scrapping grants of £5,100 per year for all students. Instead, students on lower incomes will now get a means-tested grant of up to £9,000 per year if they study full-time from 2018.
However, the Welsh government are trying to tackles this problem through the creation of the Seren Network. The programme, originally established in 2018, was made to help Welsh students wishing to apply to the UK’s top universities. The network now has over 2,000 participants and claims that 95% of those involved had applied or were expecting to apply to Russell Group universities.
The drop in Welsh applications to Russell Groups is the highest in the UK, with Scotland’s falling by just 2%, England by 6% and Northern Ireland by 5%. Some spokespeople have equated the fall to the Brexit result, with economic uncertainty meaning less students are willing to sign up to the debt that comes alongside a degree.
A Universities Wales spokesperson has spoken out in opposition of these statistics, saying: “Overall student satisfaction at universities in Wales hit its highest-ever level this year, with 86% of students saying they are satisfied with their course.
“These results are testament to the hard work Wales’s universities continue to put in to delivering the best possible student learning experience for all Wales’s students, no matter their mode, place or pace of study.
“The recent figures give an early indication that Wales may see a decline in full-time undergraduate student applications for the 2017/18 academic year.
“It is unclear at this stage how far the recruitment pattern will change before the end of the cycle, or how far this will translate into actual enrolments at the start of term.
“Figures across the UK point to a number of potential challenges emerging such as underlying population change – in particular the number of 18 year olds in Wales is projected to continue to decline significantly until 2020 – and the impact of Brexit.
“Our universities continue to have higher proportions of students from the most under-represented groups compared to the UK as a whole. As we look to the future we believe the implementation of the recommendations of the Diamond review will give many more talented people the opportunity to transform their life-chances through going to university.”