Foreign applications boom despite fears over repayment of loans
Record numbers of university hopefuls face rejection this year after a dramatic rise in applicants and a freeze on places.
Official figures show that a surge in demand from students in Britain and abroad will leave one in three applicants locked out of university in 2011 as 750,000 students compete for fewer than 475,000 places.
Data from the University and College Admissions Service show demand has increased by 5.1 per cent on last year but the number of places on offer has been frozen by the Government because of a funding shortage.
The surge has been blamed on teenagers ditching gap years – so they can get into university before tuition fees treble to a maximum of £9,000 in 2012 – and repeat applications from some of the 210,222 hopefuls who failed to get a place last year.
The figures also reveal that increasing numbers of students are picking science and maths subjects over the arts.
Demand for courses allied to medicine, such as nursing, midwifery, pathology and radiography, soared by almost a fifth.
Unions yesterday accused the Government of ‘letting down a generation’ by failing to fund a sufficient number of places, but ministers insisted that going to university has always been a competitive process.
It will compound the misery of youngsters who face crippling debts thanks to the hike in tuition fees and an aggressive job market where one in five new graduates is unemployed, twice as many as in 2008.
Figures from Ucas show 583,500 students submitted applications by January 24 this year for courses starting in 2011, an increase of 28,062 on the same point in 2010.
Although January 15 is the recommended deadline for applications, Ucas estimates an additional 30 per cent of applicants will apply before the closing date in June, swelling numbers to more than 750,000.
There was particular demand from older students, suggesting many school leavers from previous years are reapplying. Applications from 19-year-olds increased by 9 per cent, 20-year-olds by 12.4 per cent and 21-year-olds by 15.3 per cent.
Applications from EU member states are up by 8,000 to 55,318 – a 17 per cent increase on last year – and from non-EU countries by 7.7 per cent to 36,365.
Foreign students living in EU nations have applied for one in ten places for 2011.
Degree of sympathy: Universities Minister David Willetts said he understood how frustrating the process can be
This comes amid claims few EU students will pay back their UK taxpayer-funded loans because repayment is unenforceable and because many are from poorer countries, such as Estonia, where salaries do not reach the payback threshold of £21,000.
Applications for history and European languages spluttered to a halt and demand for courses such as classics, English and social sciences even declined by up to 2.7 per cent.
Education experts criticised the Government’s failure to provide funding for more places. Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said: ‘For the third year running a cap on student numbers looks set to leave tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of well-qualified applicants without a place and forced to contemplate both a long process of reapplying next year and facing a huge increase in fees.
‘Ministers are at risk of letting down a generation.’
Universities minister David Willetts said: ‘Going to university has always been a competitive process and not all who apply are accepted. Despite this we do understand how frustrating it is for young people who wish to go to university and are unable to find a place.’
Kate Loveys, The Mail Online