The number of students in higher education has grown considerably despite the Government cap on university intakes, according to the latest statistics.
The Higher Education Statistics Agency Data Report on Students in Higher Education 1995/96, published on Wednesday, showed an overall increase in total student numbers of about 10 per cent between 1994/95 and the 1995/96 academic year, from some 1,500,000 to more than 1,650,000. Last year's figure is a third higher than the 1990/91 total, about 80 per cent up on 1985/86 and more than 350 per cent the total for 1965/66.
Ted Nield, spokesman for the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, said: "The desire for higher education is an inexorable tide which a Canute-like cap cannot stop. We have been telling the Government this for some time."
Forty five per cent of the new undergraduate entrants in 1995/96 were aged over 21 or older with 30 per cent aged over 25 years. Over three-quarters of entrants were enrolled on full-time courses with the remainder on part-time courses.
Women made up 53 per cent of the entry roll while 61 per cent of those studying part-time were women. Although direct comparisons are very difficult, HESA's HE statistics bulletin for 1992/93 shows that, in 1987/88, women constituted just 43 per cent of full-time UK students. By 1992/93 they made up nearly 48 per cent.
Women undergraduate entrants in 1995/96 dominated in courses allied to medicine (82 per cent), education (74 per cent), languages (69 per cent) and veterinary science (68 per cent). Men were most numerous in engineering and technology (86 per cent), computing science (79 per cent), architecture, building and planning (77 per cent) and physical sciences (64 per cent).
The Pacific Rim economies of Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan accounted for about a quarter of the 189,200 overseas undergraduates and postgraduates (including non-UK EU students) in 1995/96. EU students comprised 43 per cent of overseas students. Overseas students made up 11 per cent of the student body and 34 per cent of full-time postgraduates. In 1992/93 the total was 93,700, less than half the 1995/96 figure.