At-risk subjects see resurgence in student interest

October 21, 2005

University courses feared to be vulnerable to closure, such as mathematics and the sciences, saw a rise in the number of undergraduates admitted this year, according to the latest figures.

Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that the number of students accepted for higher education rose by 7.8 per cent to 404,668 compared with last year. But for the first time, more than 100,000 students failed to gain a place.

The figures show an increase in the number of entrants to maths degree courses of 10 per cent, biology 7 per cent, chemistry 13 per cent and physics 10 per cent.

While entrants to electronics and electrical engineering courses fell by 7 per cent, the number starting mechanical engineering went up by 5 per cent, general engineering by 11 per cent and civil engineering by 5.1 per cent.

Entrants to courses combining European languages and literature fell by 3 per cent, while those to studies combining non-European languages and literature fell by 20 per cent.

The proportion of European Union students with a university place in the UK jumped by 17.2 per cent, with a large rise from the ten new EU members.

Some 520,961 people applied for a university place in 2005. The number of students who found a place via the clearing system in August rose from 34,504 in 2004 to 36,904. Students with no offers, conditions not met or who applied very late totalled 106,430, at least 10,000 more than last year.

Julian Nicholds of the National Union of Students said: "These latest figures are good news and perhaps indicate the hard work institutions and student unions are doing in outreach and increasing access. The rise in applications comes a year before the introduction of top-ups, which may explain the significant increase. Some students might want to avoid the increased graduate debt that top-up fees may incur."

A Universities UK spokesperson said: "We are pleased that entry figures show an increase in applicants to a number of science subjects. We continue to work together with universities on an informal basis to address the issue of strategic and vulnerable subjects."

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