Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

University and fees in figures

Graphic showing total Ucas applicants by year

The desire of vice-chancellors at many English and Welsh universities to increase tuition fees raises the question of how easily British students could meet additional costs.

Recent figures from the Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) show that applications from prospective students reached a new high in 2007, following a brief dip a year earlier.

There is no shortage of people keen to attend university, but separate statistics show that those who do gain a place go on to shoulder an increasing level of debt.

In two separate surveys of students and graduates, the Barclays and Natwest banks concluded that average student debt has broadly grown since the mid-1990s, and now stands well into five figures.

Graphic showing graduate debt surveys

However, Natwest's survey also showed that debt decreased slightly last year, while Barclays have not produced a figure beyond 2004.

Two thirds of vice-chancellors surveyed by the BBC believed the introduction of fees had not deterred applications from students from poorer families.

Further figures from Ucas do indeed show that an increasing number of UK-based students from poorer backgrounds are heading into further education.

The service gathers information on the socio-economic status of UK applicants, based on details prospective students supply about factors including their parents' occupations.

Graph showing Ucas acceptances based on socio-economic data

The resulting statistics show that, in 2008, nearly 20,000 students accepted into university had come from a background of what Ucas terms "routine occupations" - in other words, unskilled jobs.

More than 3,000 extra people from this background reached university in 2008, compared to 2007.

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