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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 01:27 GMT
E-applications to universities rise
computer room
Last year there were 77,512 e-applicants
The number of prospective students submitting applications for university places in the UK electronically has more than doubled in one year.

Approximately one in four of the 322,621 applications received last year for courses starting in the autumn were completed online, statistics from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) show.

In contrast to last year's 77,512 e-applicants, just 35,477 forms were completed online the previous year.

Student computer room
It is hoped the number of e-applications will continue to rise
"We have put a lot into the e-application system in the last couple of years," Ucas spokesman Ross Hayman said.

Mr Hayman put the boom down in part to a new product launched last year, where schools were sent a CD-rom and could e-mail applications or send them back on the CD-rom.

"For next year - students applying in 2001 for 2002 - we are just putting the finishing touches to an internet-based system, so people will be able to apply straight from our website," he said.

Such a system would be particularly useful for prospective students applying from abroad, he added.

Applications up

The Ucas figures show a modest rise of 0.7% in the number of people applying to universities and colleges.

The chief executive of Ucas, Tony Higgins, said this rise was "excellent news for higher education".

This year the number of applicants is already up, so we could be on course for another record year

Tony Higgins, Ucas
"Last year, at this time, the number of applicants was slightly down, but more people applied later and we ended up with a record number of people going to university or college in the autumn," he said.

"This year the number of applicants is already up, so we could be on course for another record year."

The figures indicate that business studies, computer science and law remain the three most popular subjects.

But there has also been a rise in the number of people applying for degree courses in nursing, media studies, software engineering, history and combined sciences courses.

Minister's welcome

The Higher Education Minister, Baroness Blackstone said the statistics were very positive.

"I welcome these figures which show that demand for higher education is still healthy and that more young people are applying for places in universities compared with last year," she said.

The statistics come after a senior academic warned of a crisis in higher education, with not enough young people staying on in the sector as lecturers and researchers.

Reporting to the Commons education select committee, Sir Michael Bett - who wrote a landmark report on higher education pay and conditions - said more "good young teachers" were urgently needed.

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