President of NUS-USI Adrianne Peltz has expressed fears about the implications of a 4.5% drop in the number of people in Northern Ireland applying for higher education courses between this year and 2011. Other figures recently released by UCAS also show that the number of people from here aged 25-29 applying has decreased by 15.9% between 2011 and 2012.
Adrianne Peltz said: "These are troubling findings and I am deeply concerned about the implications of the drop in applicants for our economy in the medium and long term.
"Having fewer people applying for higher education doesn't send out a great message about our economy. It's important particularly at this difficult economic time that we upskill people for the future, and these figures are worrying.
"I find it staggering that the number of people applying aged 25-29 has decreased so dramatically. To see a 15.9% cut sends out a troubling message. We need to see moves to increase access to higher education and these figures underline why widening participation is such an important matter.
“Higher education admission must be based simply on ability and barriers that hold people back must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Equality and opportunity are critical to our education system.”