The number of UK University applications has fallen by 25,000 (4%) since last year according to UCAS data, marking the first decline in applicants since 2012 when the UK university tuition fees were tripled.

The sharp fall extends to potential EU students living outside of the UK as a 5% decline was recorded amongst those wanting to study at UK universities.

The only rise in applications from last year came from potential students based outside of the EU, as a 2% rise can be inferred from the UCAS admissions service data.

The Financial Times notes a distinct age gap as the number of 18 year olds who applied to universities in the UK has risen whereas the number of mature students who apply to university has gone down. The West Sussex County Times notes that Professor Les Ebdon, director of Fair Access to Higher Education has called for more to be done to help mature students.

The June data has highlighted the striking decrease in the number of applications for nursing courses since last year, outlining a staggering 19% fewer applicants. Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the MillionPlus group of modern universities, said that:

“As predicted, the abolition of bursaries has depressed rather than increased applications for nursing and there will be no additional nurses trained in spite of ministers’ assurances.”

The reason for the lowest number of UK university applications in 4 years has been blamed on Brexit by a number of pedagogues and education correspondents. In an interview with Times Higher Education, Pam Tatlow added:

“The current fees and funding system is not working for those who want to study later in life.

“The government’s approach to Brexit is damaging and is creating huge uncertainties, both for EU students and UK universities.”

Whilst Scotland only saw a 1% decrease in the number of university applications this year, Scotland’s Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn said ministers were “deeply concerned” about the effect that a hard Brexit could have on Scotland’s higher education system in an interview with inews:

“While Scotland fares better than England when it comes to attracting EU domiciles, it is still worrying to see this decrease in applicants, the damaging reality of Brexit.

“We are urging the UK Government to ditch their hard Brexit model which will no doubt have a hugely negative impact on areas such as higher education, not only in Scotland but also in the rest of the UK.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education has reaffirmed that international students and staff play a key role in UK universities and the economy so the government will make efforts to maintain the status of higher education in the UK.