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Students delay university start due to cost-of-living crisis

Nick Cheek
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Nick Cheek

Students in their first year are on average fourteen months older than those were starting in 2014, according to research.

Many are waiting longer after leaving school to start their degree, meaning the average age of first-year students is now 22 years and two months.

The number of undergraduates aged between 18 and 24 has also fallen from 86% to 80%, according to Higher Education Statistics Agency data.

Across the continent, the average age of ‘freshers’ was two years younger at 19 and eight months. This fall in the number of younger students starting university in the UK is chiefly down to the cost-of-living crisis, according to Oxford Business College.

Rising food costs and ever-increasing bills has led to some worrying trends for students in higher education too. Earlier this month a separate study found that one in five (18%) students have turned to food banks and two thirds (64%) are skipping meals while going through with their degree.

Assessing the age of first-year students, Sarwar Khawaja, chairman of business development at Oxford Business College, said: “These figures highlight a story we’ve been seeing for a while now, which is that many UK-based students are waiting longer to start their university education.

Students ‘shouldn’t rush’ to start university

“The cost-of-living crisis means that many prospective students are looking hard at the benefits of higher education before deciding whether they outweigh the costs. While tuition fees for UK students are capped at a fraction of those paid by the international students on which many universities increasingly rely, studying for a degree remains a significant financial commitment.

“Many would-be applicants are now delaying their studies by a year or two, and taking a job to build up some funds to support themselves through university.

“A high proportion of our students enrol for their degree course later in life, when they have a clear idea of what they want to get out of it. Students shouldn’t rush from A-Levels to university, as we find that experience in the workplace makes them more diligent and disciplined learners.”