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Fewer students wants to study near home, survey finds

The urge to fly the family nest and study in another part of the country is as strong as ever among would-be students despite the rising cost of a university education, a national survey has found.

Just one in twenty of prospective students across the UK and in England are only considering studying in their home area.

The results of an annual survey of over 17,000 sixth formers by university choices and careers experts  Cambridge Occupational Analysts shows that the percentage preferring to study away from home has slightly increased since the introduction of higher tuition fees, and the proportion planning to stay in their area has almost halved in ten years.

Across Britain 7 per cent of would-be students who responded to the survey said they preferred to remain near their home, compared with 9 per cent in 2011 and 15 per cent in 2004.

The biggest fall over the past three years in the proportion of students who prefer to stay in their region has been in Scotland, where university tuition is free for Scottish students. The survey found that 31 per cent
of Scottish students wanted to stay at home in 2013 compared with 44 per cent in 2011 before fees in England rose to £9,000 a year.

In Wales, where Welsh students can get a grant of up to £5,425 to help cover the cost of tuition fees if they study in Wales or England, just 2 per cent now prefer to stay in their home area -- falling from 11 per cent
in 2012.

In England, London has seen the biggest fall in the proportion of would-be students planning to stay in their region. Just 10 per cent Londoners said they preferred to study in their home area in 2013 compared with 17 per
cent in 2011.

Joyce Lane, joint managing director of COA, said the findings showed that despite higher fees and living costs today's students want to keep their university options open to give them the best chance of finding the right
course for them and maximise their career potential.

But with universities marketing themselves more strongly and 35,000 courses across the UK to choose from, making a decision is an increasingly daunting and difficult task.

As the final January 15 deadline for university applications approaches COA and the hundreds of schools it works with have been encouraging sixth formers to turn to a sophisticated in-depth questionnaire to help them find the perfect degree programme.

Centigrade is now used by around 20,000 pupils in hundreds of state and independent schools and colleges across the country. It asks pupils 150 questions in order to match their academic abilities and interests with the growing and potentially bewildering range of courses on offer at home and abroad.

Mrs Lane said: “Going to university is now very expensive, and looking for the right course and university can be very time-consuming. Dropping out is costly too in terms of time and money lost and the stress experienced. This means it is more important than ever for prospective students to look into the finer details of the courses suggested to them.”

Better preparation can not only help avoid mistakes and regrets but can also help raise aspirations, unexpectedly pointing some prospective students in the direction  of leading universities they had not considered.

“Some students may not have aspired to going to one of the top universities but their Centigrade report may suggest that this is within their grasp and would be a good move for them,” Mrs Lane said.