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Taking action in higher education

UCU warns that successful A-levels do not always lead to dream degree

16 August 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Ahead of this year's A-level results released today, UCU warned that successful school and college leavers starting university this autumn may have had to sacrifice dreams of studying their preferred course because of cuts that have created 'degree deserts' in some parts of the UK.

UCU research earlier this year revealed that 10 per cent of UK science and maths courses have been axed in the last decade. There are now just 224 single honours BSc courses in maths and science offered in the UK. Chemistry and physics have been worse hit by the cuts and the report shows that in Northern Ireland and north east England there is now only one institution offering single honours physics.

The research showed a 31 per cent decline in chemistry courses and 14 per cent decline in physics. In contrast there has actually been a nine per cent rise in biology. Maths, however, has also been hit by closures with an eight per cent decrease in degree courses.

Modern languages have also been badly hit by cuts. The number of higher education institutions offering French has fallen by 15 per cent over the last decade, institutions providing German have dropped by a quarter (25 per cent) and institutions offering Italian have fallen by nine per cent.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Today should be about celebrating the achievements and hard work of students and teachers. No doubt doomsayers sniping from the sidelines with their annual rant about falling standards will try to dominate the day, however the stark choices faced by students opting to study close to home should not be overlooked.

'University is more expensive than ever and students who choose to study near home to keep the costs down may find themselves unable to study their degree of choice due to recent cuts. We simply cannot afford to have areas of the country where local students do not have access to the courses they want to study.

'Widening participation and encouraging people to go to university must be about getting people to realise their full potential, not just getting them through the nearest entrance gate.'