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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 10:38 GMT
Fewer UK university applications
female college students
Female applicants are in the majority
A thousand fewer UK students have applied to university so far this year.

The fall, of just over 2%, refers to applicants hoping to start university next year - just as top-up fees begin.

The overall total is almost exactly the same as the figures last year, with 59,881 applicants applying for undergraduate courses starting in 2006.

The figures published by Ucas, the university admissions service, show applications from students from the EU up 15% and the rest of the world 5%.

Provisional figures

The admissions service Ucas stresses the provisional nature of these figures, which relate to full-time degree, foundation degree, DipHE and HNC or HND courses.

Some 85% received so far involve those applying to medical schools and Oxford and Cambridge, for which the deadline was 15 October.

The final deadline for the majority of students is the middle of January.

More than 400,000 people eventually began courses at the end of the 2004-05 process, with one in five applicants not getting a place.

Overseas applicants

Medical applications were 2% higher, at 23,944 in total.

Dentistry courses were slightly less popular - but after a large increase (27%) last year.

And 80 more people have applied to Oxford and Cambridge, which had 26,665 applicants altogether.

There have been 4,394 more applicants from EU countries outside the UK - up 15%.

And there have been a total of 7,040 other overseas applicants, a rise of 5.4%.

Overall there have been just 85 fewer applicants this year than at the same point last year.

In keeping with the pattern of recent years women are in the majority - 55% of the total.

New financial package

At this time last year the rise compared with the previous year was 1%. By July 2005 that had become 8%.

Given the larger than usual increase we saw last year, a slight fall is to be expected
Bill Rammell
Higher Education Minister
That shows how provisional these figures are, but gives no real clue as to which way they might go over the coming year.

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said it was too early to draw conclusions.

¿But given the larger than usual increase we saw last year, a slight fall is to be expected.

"We saw something similar happen in 1998 when we introduced tuition fees, but the numbers have risen each year since then.

"We are not complacent. We recognise that more needs to be done to inform potential students about the benefits of the new financial package available to them."

Fees for undergraduates in England, though much higher from next year, will no longer have to be paid in advance and there are grants and bursaries for the poorest.

Electronic system

Applications have been plagued by problems related to a new computer system.

The process is now almost entirely web-based. But many universities also wanted printed copies of people's details, and producing them proved difficult.

"Ucas had some initial difficulties in transferring the electronic data on to copy forms and in some cases this has resulted in delays in institutions receiving the forms," a spokesman said.

"Ucas is now fully up to date with the despatch of copy forms and is working closely with the institutions to ensure that no applicant is disadvantaged as a result of the delays."

And this has had "absolutely no effect" on these statistics. In fact because the system is almost entirely electronic Ucas has been able to produce them a little earlier than in the past.

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