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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 01:01 GMT
Maths students in decline
lecture hall
Overall, the number of university applications is up
The number of potential students applying to university to study mathematics has slumped by over 12%, official statistics showed.

The figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) also revealed a 2.6% decline in applications for chemistry degree places.


This points to a continuing crisis in maths teaching in our schools, which is now in a vicious cycle of decline

David Rendel, Liberal Democrats
The revelation marks a blow for schools which are already struggling to recruit sufficient teachers in maths and science.

Overall, though, the number of people applying to university by 15 January 2002 was up by more than 12,000 on last year.

And the number of mature students has risen by 13.3% from 41,907 to 47,473.

Interest in pre-clinical medicine was up by 15.6%, English studies applications rose by 12.4%, nursing was up by 12.1% and physics by 10.2%.

Ucas stressed that changes in the way courses were coded meant comparisons between this year and 2000/01 could not be made in most subjects.

'Encouraging'

Ucas chief executive Tony Higgins said: "It is encouraging to see an increase in the number of students applying for university and college places."

Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge said the figures showed the government's target of getting 50% of young people in higher education by 2010 was realistic.

"This is good news for the university sector and a welcome advance in our efforts to raise young people's aspirations."

But the Liberal Democrat Higher Education spokesman, David Rendel, said it was "deeply worrying" that applications to study mathematics were down 12.1%.

"This points to a continuing crisis in maths teaching in our schools, which is now in a vicious cycle of decline."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We recognise the importance of maths, which is why the government has introduced golden hellos for maths teachers and the student loan write-off, subject to the passage of the Education Bill."

It had already had an effect, with the number of maths teacher trainees was 20% in 2001-2 compared with the previous year, he added.

See also:

04 Apr 01 | Education
'Shortage subjects' attract graduates
31 May 01 | Education
Rise in university applications
26 Jan 01 | Education
E-applications to universities rise
11 Apr 01 | Education
Chinese students choose UK
16 Jan 01 | Education
Teacher applications 'up by 10%'
13 Jan 01 | Correspondents
Truth about teacher shortages
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