Devon and Cornwall see huge drop in university applications
Parts of the Westcountry have seen a staggering drop of almost a fifth in the number of people applying to university since tuition fees were trebled.
The figures, released by the House of Commons Library, reveal the South West has seen one of the two biggest drops in university hopefuls in the last year across the UK.
In one constituency, Plymouth Moor View, the number of applications was down by an astonishing 16%.
Constituency MP Alison Seabeck, said the figures were "predictable and disappointing."
"Every young person who wants to go to university and who is academically able to go should not have to hinder their ambition because of the spectre of such significant personal debt.
"It's unacceptable that we should see such a fall in applications at a time when we know that the economy will continue to need a more skilled workforce."
According to the National Union of Students (NUS), which compiled the regional figures, there has been a drop of 12.6% in the number of people applying to university in the South West.
This is just marginally below the biggest drop of 12.7% which was experienced in the North East.
Across the region, researchers showed that less and less people were considering university education since tuition fees were allowed to be levied at up to £9,000 per year.
The biggest fall in Cornwall was in the South East constituency, which saw a 17% drop in applications. In St Austell and Newquay it was -16%, Truro and Falmouth -14%, in St Ives -12%, Camborne and Redruth -10% and in North Cornwall, -3%.
In Devon, Totnes saw the biggest fall of 19% with the lowest fall in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport at -9%.
Exeter University, which was recently named Sunday Times University of the Year, said it had bucked the trend.
A spokeswoman said: "So far for 2013, we have received 3,300 more home and EU undergraduate applications at this point in the cycle compared to last year," she said.
"Even excluding medicine, for which we are recruiting directly for the first time, applications are up by 1,742. This represents an increase of 18.8% on comparative data to last year."
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson said: "The Government's reforms have made the university system fairer and more progressive."