The position of this autumn's university applicants is confused by the legal and political situation on fees
THE government's student support changes are being widely blamed for Scotland's 6.1 per cent drop in first-year applications compared with an overall drop of 4.2 per cent.
Dundee University, one of the worst-hit Scottish universities, whose latest figures show a drop of more than 14 per cent, has revealed that applications from Northern Ireland have fallen by 24 per cent.
Gordon Craig, Dundee's director of student recruitment and admissions, said: "Numbers from England and Wales are also badly affected, down 13 per cent, while the number of local applications has remained relatively unscathed. This pattern endorses the fears we have expressed over the likely effect of a government policy that imposes an extra Pounds 1,000 on United Kingdom students who choose to travel to Scotland."
But Scottish education minister Brian Wilson said applications figures were improving daily, showing that the more information prospective students got about "the realities of the funding package, the more they are realising that there is nothing to inhibit them from applying for university."
The UCAS figures show a dramatic 79 per cent increase in the number of English students seeking to enter a Scottish course after the first year, with numbers rising from 522 last year to 938. "This is a step in the right direction," Mr Wilson said. Garrick, the Scottish arm of the Dearing inquiry, had urged increased entry into the second year from applicants with relevant A-level qualifications, he said.