A decline in graduate levels is likely to have an effect on business, according to a new report.
A moderate fall in the number of 18 to 20-year-olds from today until 2019 is predicted across the UK. It's an overall decline that equates to 70,000 full-time undergraduate places over the next 10 years, although the dip between now and 2019 will have reversed by 2027.
The rest of the EU is expected to see an even greater downturn in 18 to 20-year-olds – around 40% in some countries.
Sir Muir Russell, vice-president of Universities UK and chair of the report's steering group, said: "This isn’t the first time the sector has faced such a significant change in the make-up of its student population, but we’ll need to work closely with policy makers to ensure that the sector adjusts well. Our universities are in an excellent position to prepare for such fluctuations, but it is crucial that future government policy takes these demographic projections into account."
Russell added that he expected to see an increase in international students over this period and urged that everything must be done to ensure the UK remains an attractive destination for them:
"Given the projected increases in other age groups, such as 30 to 39-years-old, it is also crucial that universities have a key role in improving the skills of the current workforce. And finally, as we saw with similar demographic uncertainties in the late 1980s, we must continue to improve the staying-on rate for 16-year-olds in order to increase demand for higher education, especially from those from poorer backgrounds."