NEWCASTLE could become a “ghost town” by 2020 as tuition fees spark an exodus of students, a report out today will claim.
New research suggests the city could be the hardest hit in the country over the coming years as student populations are predicted to significantly decline.
The study, by home insurance company LV=, forecasts that the number of students living in the city will slump by 52% in the next nine years – a loss of 15,000 students.
With Newcastle University planning to charge £9,000 a year in fees from 2012, and Northumbria University hoping to charge £8,500, it is feared that many young people will either study in their home city or not go to university at all.
According to the study, areas with large student populations, such as Jesmond and Fenham, could see a slump in property prices as buy-to-let houses are no longer rented by students. Adam White, president of Northumbria University’s student union, who lives in Heaton, Newcastle, said he was concerned about how the fee increase could affect local businesses.
He said: “I originally come from Doncaster and I don’t know if I would have moved to Newcastle if I had to pay so much in tuition fees.
“The fees are a real concern for students and could have a big impact on the economy in the North East, especially as fewer students might come to Newcastle from around the country and students from the region might feel priced out of the market.
“The North East is already suffering economically compared to the rest of the country and the rise in fees could make it worse if people stop coming here.”
Tom Delamere, president of Newcastle University’s student union, said he hoped students would not be deterred from coming to the North East.
He added: “Students contribute in many ways to the diverse atmosphere that surrounds Newcastle, from volunteering to generating income for local businesses.”
Max Stothert, 18, from Manchester has received an offer to study history at Newcastle in 2012.
However, since the university announced its intention to charge £9,000 a year, he admits he is thinking twice about relocating to the North East. He said: “I loved Newcastle when I visited, but the fees will definitely influence my choice of whether to come to Newcastle or not.”
The study suggests that by 2020, 52% of students will choose a local university and stay with their parents.
It also predicts the student population of Sunderland will fall by 35%.
Next year’s tuition fee increase, coupled with declining numbers of 18 to 24-year-olds in the general population over the next decade, will see a 14% decline in higher education numbers over the next decade, the study says.
John O’Roarke, managing director of LV= home insurance, added: “The student towns report shows how student life is set to be transformed over the next decade, as the impact of rising tuition fees forces university students to reassess their finances and living arrangements.”
A Newcastle University spokesperson said: “Newcastle University has seen an increase in applications in the last three years and this is a solid foundation on which to continue to attract students from all parts of the UK.
“We believe this is because we offer a high-quality teaching and learning experience, are consistently ranked in the top 20 in the UK for research power and student experience and have a strong graduate employability record.”