We're slowly beginning to fill up the courses for next year. This year has seen an unprecedented rise in applications - primarily because the introduction of tuition fees next year has meant very few students seem to be prepared to take a gap year, but also a result of the 200,000 students who failed to gain places in HE last year and are reapplying. The bad news for sixth formers is that competition this year is intense. The good news for us is that we should be able to put together a talented cohort for entry in September.
The fees issue is a bit of an elephant in the room. Most institutions are about to declare and it seems most will set high rather than run the risk of either being seen as a second tiered University or of losing money per capita. How potential students will respond is hard to guess . I think the ambition and cache of going to University is deeply ingrained in our culture - it'll take a counter revolution before academically able eighteen year olds decide it's not worth the money. Despite the huge debt It'll still probably be seen as safer to go.
The fall off will be amongst students from less academic backgrounds who will see no incentive in a £27,000 bill. A further challenge to our Utopian dreams of an inclusive HE culture may come from employers offering their own training courses at a fraction of the cost. Either way some clear hierarchies are about to be opened up.
A big question for us is whether we fix fees on a course by course basis or whether we go for a St Mary's fee. Either way every registrar in the country will be holding their breath next Autumn when the first UCAS forms trickle in.
Once again the standard today was very high and although the gender balance remains problematic (we receive four times as many applications from women as we do from men) things are shaping up well. For now we're in a time of plenty.