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Rise in University Applications Increases Competition

Recently published statistics have shown that university applications have reached record levels for the fourth year in a row, and this year could see over 200,000 prospective students missing out on a place at a UK university.

According to the latest figures from UCAS, applications are up almost a fifth on last year. At the moment more than 570,000 students have applied for a place at university starting this autumn, an increase of over 100,000 on the same time last year. UK applicants are up 22.1%, while overseas applicants are up 28.7%, having risen from 55,245 to 71,105.

Last year, despite 633,000 applications, only around 480,000 people got a place at university. This year, if applications continue to come in at the same rate until the June deadline, over 200,000 school leavers will not gain entry to university, as the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) has confirmed there will be 6,000 fewer places for full-time undergraduates in the next academic year.

Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, has said “this cycle will be very challenging and competitive for applicants”. Coupled with the government placing a cap on places like last year and the fact that universities who broke this cap and over-recruited now face having to pay fines for each extra student, mean places will be scarcer than ever, and inevitably many students will be disappointed.

It is thought that many of the increased number of applications are as a result of the recession, especially as applications from the over-25s rose by 63.4%, while those from the 21 to 24 year old category rose 44.8%. There has also been a 45.5% increase in people reapplying for places.

Professor Steve Smith, president of Universities UK, the group that represents ­vice-chancellors, has said “it’s inevitable that we are going to see even more pressure on places this year and the strong possibility of many well-qualified students missing out.”

However, the higher education minister, David Lammy, simply said: “Getting a place at university has always been, and should be, a competitive process. Not everyone gets the grades, and some decide university is not for them. It’s early days and students haven’t even sat their A-levels yet.”

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