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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
Chinese students drawn to UK
chinese students
So far, 4,812 Chinese students have applied to the UK
Applications to British universities from Chinese students have risen dramatically in the past year, official statistics show.

In the past three years the number of undergraduate applications from China has increased almost ten-fold, figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) indicate.

By mid-May China was top of the list of overseas countries with 4,812 applications - up 69% from 2,854 at the same point last year.

The rise follows marketing campaigns by many universities, after the government encouraged universities and colleges to recruit more students from overseas.

British universities are increasingly turning to overseas students, who mostly pay full-cost fees, to boost their income.

More applications

The figures also indicate a 2% rise in university applications across the board, with Scotland enjoying the biggest increase in applications.

The number of Scottish students choosing to study in Scotland - where tuition fees do not apply - was up 5.6% from 28,077 to 29,644.

The 50% target Tony Blair has set for university entrance by 2010 is now little more than a pipe dream

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrats
In contrast, applications from under 21-year-olds in England are up by a mere 0.1%.

This has led some to question whether the government can achieve its target of 50% of all under 30s experiencing higher education by 2010.

Phil Willis, education spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said the target was now "little more than a pipe dream."

"This is a shameful condemnation for a government whose slogan was 'education, education, education'," said Mr Willis.

'We're on target'

Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge said the target was achievable and 41.5% had already been achieved.

Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge: Adamant the government will hit its targets
"The target relates to 18-30 year olds and although under 21s may be up by 0.1% the 21-24 are up by 7.3%.

"Of course we take these figures very seriously, but in previous years the final enrolments have been higher than the increase in applicants at this stage of the process.

"In 2000 applications were down by 0.5% but final enrolments were up by 1.9%."

Subject interest

Pre-clinical medicine saw the biggest percentage rise in applications of 15.1%, followed by history of period at 15%.

Cinematics and photography was up by 14.2%, law up by 11.8%, psychology by 11.1% and politics by 10.1%.

Applications for mathematics degrees were down by 11.6% on the previous year.

And information systems saw a slump in applications of 9.1% on the previous year, as did computer science at 5.5%.

The number of students applying online has also risen, with just less than a third (31.7%) of applications coming in electronically.


Ucas chief executive Tony Higgins said: "Although the figures released today are not tied into any specific closing date, they do enable us to identify trends."

"The increase in the number of people applying for university and college places is good news and the uptake in applicants using our electronic applications system is also rising.

"We should see a clearer picture overall emerging after 30 June, which is the final date for late applications before they go into clearing," he said.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "These new statistics are welcome news that, despite increasing student hardship, large numbers of young people and mature students still think that higher education is a worthwhile choice."

The government should use the forthcoming spending review to invest in the academic and teaching community."

See also:

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