Students still want to study in Norwich

Students have not been put off studying in Norwich by big hikes in tuition fees, it has been claimed, despite the city's main university seeing a drop in application numbers.

In contrast to the national picture – and many expectations – the Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA) has reported a big year-on-year increase. But the University of East Anglia said its numbers had decreased compared with this time in 2011, when there was a surge in applicants hoping to get in ahead of the fee rises. The UEA said its figures were up on 2010, the last stable year for applications from students under the old fee regime, which many consider a fairer comparison.

The university said the numbers – which are the latest available following the deadline set by admissions body UCAS – were 'as good as we could have hoped for' and showed students were willing to invest in sites with strong academic reputations and student satisfaction records.

Mark Barlow, director of admissions, said 2011 was an exceptional year for all higher education institutions, with UEA experiencing a particularly large increase of 17pc compared with 2010.

He said the university – which is down 13pc on 2011 – had never expected to maintain those levels and, in line with many other universities, was basing its comparison on 2010 numbers instead.

'UEA is up by 3pc compared with the 2010 figures – that's double the increase of our main competitors,' he said. 'Students are still prepared to invest in university education. It's still affordable to go to university.'

Those views were echoed by NUCA which has continued its rise in popularity with a 12.8pc growth in application numbers.

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Principal John Last said applications for the specialist art school were 'very pleasing'. He said no-one really knew how raising the cap on fees was going to affect students but he believed, rather than choosing not to go to university, learners were thinking more carefully about where they applied.

He said: 'Students are being more forensic in considering their options. They are looking at the infrastructure and NUCA does well there. There's also a tendency towards subjects that are clearly focusing on a career and we are a vocationally -focused institution.'

Easton College said its numbers were down slightly but was confident many applications would become enrolments.

City College Norwich principal Dick Palmer said applications for 2012 had been a 'major source of concern for all higher education institutions' but its numbers were 'holding up well and we are quietly confident that we can maintain our HE student numbers'.