There's been quite a bit of coverage of the university application figures over the last couple of days.
The headline is that applications to English universities are down 10 per cent. As someone who voted to raise the cap on tuition fees because I felt that - with the changes we made to the repayment system - it was the least bad option, but who was concerned that despite the more progressive repayment system students from less well-off backgrounds might be put off from applying, this was an alarming headline.
So I contacted the Minister's office and I found that this headline figure is very misleading for two reasons.
First, the headline figure includes applications from 18 year-olds and mature students. The number of applications from mature students is down but given that the Government has made it much more attractive for mature students to study part-time (they previously didn't qualify for loans and had to pay tuition fees upfront), that's hardly surprising.
Second, if you just look at 18 year-olds there is still a decline but most of that is because there are some 9,000 fewer 18 year-olds this year than last year. If you look at the proportion of 18 year-olds who have applied to university this year compared to last year, numbers are down just 1 per cent - and even this slight fall is mostly in more affluent areas.
So, contrary to the headlines, it doesn't look like higher fees have deterred students from applying. You can read the independent analysis for yourself here.