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First degree student numbers drop

18 March 08 13:47 GMT

The number of students undertaking a first degree in Scotland has fallen for the first time in eight years.

An increase in postgraduate students helped overall numbers rise to almost 300,000 in 2006-07, according to the government-published statistics.

Business administration and medicine-related courses were the most popular choices for students.

Agriculture - taken up by only 1,560 students in 2006-07 - proved to be the least popular.

The total number of students in higher education in Scotland increased by 8,790 to reach 293,970 in 2006-07, compared to the previous year.

Postgraduate students made up almost a quarter of the total, increasing by 6,680, while first degree students fell by 490, to 133,635 - a decrease for the first time since 1999-00.

Higher education students at colleges fell by 3%, to 48,745.

There was also a slight increase to 14,115 in the number of people studying with the Open University.

A total of 58,510 people were studying business administration, mostly at postgraduate level, in 2006-07 and subjects related to medicine attracted 33,590 enrolments, largely at first degree level.

The number of students on science, architecture and engineering courses also rose - but agriculture numbers dropped by 10% compared to the previous year.

Courses allied to medicine attracted the greatest proportion of female entrants and engineering and technology courses for males.

The figures also revealed that a fifth of students in Scotland were from overseas, an increase of almost 7,000, with most from non-European countries.

The number of Scots choosing to study in their home country was largely unchanged, at about three quarters of the total, while those from the rest of the UK dropped slightly to 9,765.

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