Demand for higher education is stagnant, endangering the government's 50 per cent participation target, according to figures published today, writes Alison Goddard.
The number of UK school-leavers who applied for a full-time undergraduate place has fallen, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. More mature and overseas students have applied, lifting the overall figure. The government target refers to British people aged 18 to 30.
In England, 0.4 per cent fewer young people had applied for a place by the June 30 deadline, compared with last year. Wales also saw a decline. Scotland - where upfront tuition fees have been abolished and maintenance grants reintroduced - saw a 2.8 per cent rise in the number of applicants aged 21and under.
The number of applicants of all ages from the UK was up 0.6 per cent.
When overseas applicants are included, numbers are up 1.9 per cent to 422,574.