In terms of degree subjects, applications for medicine and dentistry courses, which had to be completed three months before the general UCAS deadline, showed a 6.5% increase. The biggest rise was seen in mature students (over the age of 25) who increased by 20.6%, taking the total to 77,286.
Anthony McClaran, the chief executive of UCAS, said: “These figures make 2008 a record-breaking year in terms of those applying for and those being accepted on to full-time higher education courses.”
Despite growing concerns over foreign students becoming more reluctant to study in the UK due to the high cost of living, the figures also show a rise in overseas students taking degrees in British universities – up 5.6% overall, with Romania (140.5%), Bulgaria (109.4%), Singapore (32.2%) and China (21%) seeing the biggest increases in student numbers.
This is good news for many British universities, which rely heavily on funds brought in by foreign students. Diana Warwick, the Chief Executive of the Vice-Chancellors’ umbrella group, Universities UK, said: “These figures show an overall upward shift in application numbers over the last decade. It’s clear that people continue to see higher education as a worthwhile investment in their futures.”
Meanwhile, the higher education minister, David Lammy commented: “We are committed to raising interest in – and take-up of – science among our young people, so it is very encouraging to see that we are making some headway, with the number of students studying subjects such as chemistry, physics and biology showing welcome signs of growth.”