THE number of town students applying to university has fallen by nearly a quarter in just one year.
The 23 per cent drop is more than double the regional average, and comes after tuition fees were hiked up by the coalition Government giving universities the right to charge students up to £9,000 every year.
Figures obtained by Hartlepool MP Iain Wright show that, by December 19 last year, 438 town students had applied to university compared with 571 students at the same date in 2010.
Mr Wright said the stats paint a gloomy picture for young students in the town and admitted he fears seeing a lost generation of talent in Hartlepool.
The figures, revealed by universities minister David Willetts in answer to a Parliamentary question put forward by Mr Wright, mean a drop in applications of over 23 per cent in 12 months, compared to the North East average drop of just under 10 per cent.
Mr Wright said: “The statistics show that the Government’s trebling of tuition fees has had a direct impact on the number of Hartlepool people wanting to consider university as an option.
“People are being put off thinking about university because of the higher debt caused by the trebling of tuition fees and the reduced prospects of a good graduate job at the end of their degree course.
“I’m particularly concerned that, at this stage in the application process compared with last year, the fall in applications is more than twice the regional average.
“This will have a huge impact on Hartlepool’s economic potential and the competitiveness over the next few years.
“On top of record levels of youth unemployment, these statistics paint a gloomy picture for the town’s potential graduates.
“I would strongly encourage anyone from the town that wants to apply to university to do so, but potential undergraduates in Hartlepool seem to have done their sums and are being put off by the hike in fees.
“I fear that we will see a lost generation of talent in the town.
“For the good of Hartlepool’s young people, I urge the Government to change course on tuition fees and to provide support for those ambitious people wanting to better themselves.”