A TOWN headteacher fears students are being put off from going to university because of the rising costs of higher education.
New figures show the North East is falling behind the rest of the country in getting young people to university.
Statistics released by Ucas, the university admissions service, show the number of university applicants from the region has gone up by less than one per cent from last year, whereas other regions across the UK are up four per cent on the same point in 2013.
Andrew Jordon, principal at Dyke House Sports & Technology College in Mapleton Road, says fees of up to £9,000 a year are putting off many school leavers from going to university.
Mr Jordon said: “People know all about the high tuition fees, but I think it would be a tragedy if a talented student couldn’t have the aspirations to go to Oxford for example because of financial reasons.
“There are assisted place schemes in place to help pupils from poorer backgrounds, and that is a key part of the support which is available to them.
“We try to encourage students to go to university, but we are fully aware of the financial restraints on some people.
“One of the key drives we have at Dyke House is to get our students into the top performing universities, but we do make them aware that there other options open to them and are careful not to push them down a route they are not comfortable with.
“Some people may see an apprenticeship as a safer option, the chance to earn while they learn rather than spending a lot of money on university with no guarantee of work at the end of it.
“It’s all about supporting the individual and guiding them as best we can.”
Last year, a total of 19,760 students applied to get into university. That figure by just 80 this year, with 19,840 expresing an interest in moving into higher education.
The final deadline for candidates applying through Ucas was June 30.
After that, unfilled places are allocated through a post-results process known as clearing.
Les Walton, chair of Northern Education Trust, believes the increase in the number of apprenticeships could also be a factor behind students opting against university.
Mr Walton said: “That is not a bad thing and the fact school leavers are taking up worthwhile apprenticeships as opposed to going to university should not be deemed as a negative.”