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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 00:05 GMT
Record number enter university
science student
Science is becoming less popular among students
A record number of people started university courses last year.

The number of people taking up full-time undergraduate courses rose by 18,000 or 5.4% on the previous year, according to the UK's university admissions body Ucas.

A total of 358,041 people started university in the autumn.

The increase will please ministers, who have pledged to widen access to university.

Rise and fall of subjects
Media studies - up 22%
Cinematics - up 16.5%
Nursing - up 16.5%
Chemistry - down 7.6%
Civil engineering - down 5.3%
The chief executive of Ucas, Tony Higgins, said: "Normally, we expect to see a rise of about 1.5% each year in the number of people accepting places at UK universities and colleges.

"This year's unprecedented rise is a welcome one and a sign that national initiatives to widen participation are starting to bear fruit."

University lecturers have complained that student numbers are being expanded without any improvement in resources.

Sally Hunt, the assistant general secretary of the academics' union the Association of University Teachers (AUT) said: "In the last two decades the staff/student ratio has more than doubled.

"We are concerned that this year's record increase in students will by now have experienced record class sizes, overworked teachers and under-resourced libraries and computer facilities.

"Quality and expansion cannot be achieved on the cheap."

Popular courses

The final figures for university admissions last autumn show the popularity of media studies continuing to grow, and a declining interest in science and engineering.

The number of people studying media studies rose by 22.1%.

There was a 16.5% increase in students taking cinematics and studying nursing at university.

The greatest falls were in science and engineering.

The number of undergraduates starting chemistry degrees fell 7.6% in September 2001 compared with the year before, while entrants to environmental and other physical science courses were down 9.4%.

The number taking up civil engineering degrees dropped 5.3%.

See also:

10 Jan 02 | Education
Jobs slowdown for graduates
19 Jun 00 | Education
Leg-up for poor students
29 Aug 00 | Education
'No panic' over university places
18 Aug 00 | Education
Course scramble in clearing
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