TEENAGERS are shying away from university in a move that has been described as “concerning” for Blackpool’s future.
Despite record-breaking A-level exam results, the number of students from the town who applied to continue their studies has plummeted by more than 30 per cent.
The figure – revealed by the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) – has been attributed to higher fees, job worries and a lack of “aspiration” from the town’s youngsters.
And it’s something Coun Sarah Riding, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for education, hopes will change in the future.
She said: “Blackpool has always traditionally had one of the lowest post 16 participation rates in education, and that’s something which is concerning anyway.
“That’s to do with aspirations – and in our children’s plan which will be launched in September that is a key priority and we’ve already been doing a lot of work over the past few years to get people to stay on at college.
“The other thing with university is the fees and the cost of living – we know graduates have a better chance of employment, but there’s also a lot of graduate unemployment and that is really frightening people.
“But I am very concerned about these figures because it’s people’s futures.
“We want people to go into further education for all the benefits, life skills and experiences and then come back to Blackpool and contribute to its growth going forward.”
Last year, 1,328 students applied for a place at university, but that figure fell by 32 per cent to 1,298 this year.
For this first time this year university fees have sky-rocketed, with students facing fees of up to £9,000 a year on top of living costs.
But Coun Riding added: “Going to university is a great experience and it shouldn’t be just for the privileged it should be for everybody.
“People can study locally –there are more than 400 courses at Blackpool and the Fylde College – and we have Lancaster University and the University of Central Lancashire which are local.
“So there are plenty of options and we need to encourage students to go to university in the first place and then attract them back to Blackpool.”
Blackpool and the Fylde College celebrated a record-breaking 99 per cent pass rate this year – but students union president Lucie Rawcliffe said even there youngsters are cautious about pursuing their studies.
The 18-year-old, who will have to make her own decision on university next year following the completion of her two-year arts course, said: “People have to look into whether they need to go to university to get the job they want. Years ago going to university was what you did after sixth form, but I think the 30 per cent drop is down to fees and people questioning whether it’s worth it.
“Sometimes college can offer a lot more than going to university and a lot of people are doing foundation courses, have got good jobs straight away or are going travelling.”