Research shows there are almost 20,000 fewer full-time undergraduate courses available than in 2006. The number of degree courses on offer at British universities has been slashed by more than a quarter in the past six years, new research suggests. It reveals that there are almost 20,000 fewer full-time undergraduate courses available now than there were in 2006.
The report's authors analysed official course data, and a sample of single-subject degree courses to investigate whether there had been any noticeable change in what was on offer. It found a sharp reduction in the total number of full-time undergraduate degree courses in Britain: a fall of 27% between 2006 and 2012. In total, there are 51,116 degree courses available this year, compared with 70,052 in 2006. Within the UK, England has seen a 31% fall in courses, while Northern Ireland has seen a drop of 24%, Wales 11% and Scotland 3%.
In England, six out of nine regions have seen a cut of a quarter or more. Among those with the largest reductions are the south-west, with a drop of 47%; the east, which was down 41%; and the north-west, which had a cut of 40%. At the other end of the scale, only 1% of courses have been cut in the East Midlands. The report found that among the single-subject courses examined in the UK, there has been a fall of 14.6% in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem subjects), while social science courses have dropped by 12.8%, and arts and humanities are down by 14%.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: "While successive governments have been dreaming up new ways to increase the cost of going to university, the range of subjects available to students has fallen massively. The UK's global academic reputation is built on the broad range of subjects available and on the freedom of academics to push at the boundaries and create new areas of study.
"This report shows that, while government rhetoric is all about students as consumers, the curriculum has actually narrowed significantly."
She added: "Although students in England are expected to pay up to £9,000 a year to study, there is much less choice for them.
"hifting the burden of funding from the state to the student means nervous universities will look to axe even more courses that they worry won't make a profit. However, we simply cannot have areas of the country where local students do not have access to the courses they want to study."
According to official figures published by the university admissions services Ucas, the numbers of applications to university had been rising up until this year. As of January, 462,507 UK students had applied for courses beginning in the autumn, compared with 506,388 at this point last year – a drop of 8.7%.