Fees fail to curb rush for places

August 28, 1998

TUITION fees have failed to deter people from higher education as the rush for places goes on, according to the admissions service.

Figures released this week show the number of people withdrawing from clearing dropped to 6,739 from 6,897 at the same time last year. Overall 256,452 people had been accepted on to courses by Wednesday morning, up 2.8 per cent on the same time last year.

Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said: "People are not turning down places in higher education because of tuition fees, despite fears in some quarters that they would be put off."

A spokesman for the National Union of Students challenged Mr Higgins's claim: "It is far too early to say whether students will or will not be deterred. All the indications are that there is a huge amount of confusion and uncertainty about fees and the loans package. I think people are keeping their options open as long as possible. That may be why they are not withdrawing."

There has been a leap in the numbers of people securing places through the UCAS clearing process. By Wednesday, 6,191 people had gained places through clearing, up by a fifth on last year. But despite the initial rush there are still more than 100,000 people eligible for clearing. About half of them might expect to gain a place.

UCAS deputy chief executive Anthony McClaran said: "The reasons for the improvement in the number of people accepted could be due to their gaining better results or just that the (admissions) system is working more efficiently." He said the electronic age had "truly dawned" for admissions. On A-level results day UCAS received 8,000 phone calls, and there were 35,000 full course searches carried out on the service's website.

Overall, the number of people applying to university fell by 2.4 per cent to 426,028. So far 135,953 of the total numbers accepted on courses are women, compared with 120,421 men. The pattern is repeated for under-21 school leavers with 109,997 female and 97,039 male applicants accepted.

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