Prospective students are attending fewer university open days when researching where to study due to rising living costs, according to the university admissions service.
Nearly two in five (39%) prospective applicants in the UK said they have cut down on the number of open days they attended due to costs, and 5% said they did not attend any because of the expense, a survey has found.
Prospective applicants from the most disadvantaged areas were more likely to have reduced university open-day attendance, according to the Ucas poll.
Jo Richards, senior insight lead at Ucas, said its research found that “some students are ruling out places earlier” due to the cost of living.
She said: “By restricting their opportunity to explore the different potential environments, they have reduced the options available to them before they even apply.”
The admissions service conducted the survey and focus groups with prospective applicants in November last year to understand the impact of rising costs on their decisions about their futures.
One focus group participant said: “(Open days) are really expensive and I couldn’t afford the trains so I only got to visit one.”
Another said: “(Virtual open days) gave me an insight into the subject that I wanted to do, but not in terms of the university… the lifestyle… and the area.”
Of those who said they have cut down on the number of open days, only around half (53%) said they had attended virtual visits instead, the survey found.
In its submission to the cost of living inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Students, Ucas said: “Open-day attendance is being affected due to rising living costs. Open days can be a vital source of information and guidance for applicants.”
“We would continue to encourage universities, colleges, and government to consider how we can facilitate access to these,” the admissions service said.
Among the prospective applicants domiciled in the UK who were surveyed, 58% said they were now considering getting a part-time job while at university due to increased costs, 26% said they would consider choosing a university closer to home, and 24% said they would consider living at home.
More than half (51%) of the prospective students agreed that the cost-of-living increase has lowered their expectations of student life, the survey found.
In a Ucas blog, Ms Richards said: “We have a duty as a sector to make sure that we are putting support and interventions in place to ensure widening participation students are not more greatly affected than their advantaged peers.”
A Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said: “The latest findings from Ucas highlight that the cost of living is a significant concern for future students.
“Universities have stepped up efforts to alleviate financial pressures on their students, but Ucas’ findings show that more can be done to effectively communicate to prospective students the wide range of practical support they have to offer.
“These are difficult times for many students, especially those from low-income backgrounds who may be discouraged from attending university due to financial barriers. This would be a tragic loss of talent to the country and impact social mobility.
“It’s imperative that government look closely at the maintenance support package as maintenance uplifts, particularly in England, will not cover the real terms cut that students are seeing.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We recognise students continue to face financial challenges, which is why we are increasing loans and grants for living and other costs for a further year.
“To help students who need further support, we have made an additional £15 million available, increasing our student premium funding to £276 million this academic year. In addition, the Government has announced that it is extending the Energy Price Guarantee for a further three months and many students are also benefiting from the Energy Bills Support Scheme discounts, including the Alternative Funding scheme.
“Many universities are already stepping up efforts to support their students through a variety of programmes and we urge students who are worried about their circumstances to speak to their university.”