For the past two years, first year students at university have not had the experience they signed up for. Pre-pandemic, students enrolled at university and experienced the first half of the year as it should be: face-to-face lectures, joining societies, clubbing. Unfortunately, after a turbulent year of the country being in and out of lockdowns and restrictions, they are yet to see the university experience as it was once known. However, this year it seems that university applicants are more cautious of how drastically their experience could be impacted by COVID, with deferral rates reaching their highest in almost 10 years.


Student Halls
Image source: What Uni?

So why are so many students deferring?

According to the telegraph, universities have seen a 31% rise in deferrals since last year, the result of many different factors. After 18 months of online learning, it’s hardly surprising that the possibility of lectures being online will have been off-putting to many. Given that tuition fees are so high and are unlikely to be reduced, many students are wanting to wait a further year so that they will receive tuition that is worth the fees they’re paying. Although universities are hoping to return to face-to-face teaching, many aren’t quite ready to commit to this yet. Some are opting for a hybridised style of learning, with high volume lectures taking place online, while tutorials and seminars will take place on campus. Therefore, although elements of student life such as seminars return to normal, students won’t be experiencing the atmosphere of a packed lecture hall.

Amongst the thought of not getting their money’s worth in tuition, there were other reasons for deferral. Some universities who are oversubscribed have been offering incentives to students to defer a year, such as University of Exeter. The university has offered a number of medical students £10,000 and free accommodation if they defer a year (The Telegraph). It seems like a no-brainer really, take a gap year and receive a large sum of money as well as saving thousands of pounds on accommodation! University of Leeds is offering a similar incentive to students who want to study Law or Business.

Students in a lecture hall
Image source: The Conversation

As well as COVID-related reasons for deferring, the usual still apply. It’s not uncommon for students to accept places at universities and defer while they take a gap year. Whether this is while they work to save money or to go travelling and see the world. It could also be simply because they don’t feel ready to move away from home yet. According to The Telegraph, 5.59% of university applicants deferred last year, with most possibly impacted by the worry of COVID impacting their studies. It could be that after seeing how student-life went for last year’s cohort, some applicants had worries that this would be repeated in the upcoming moths, with the possibilities of COVID rates rising again.