There has been a surge in numbers of applications from English students to study at Scottish and Welsh universities, according to the latest admissions figures, writes Paul Hill.
Overall, applications for full-time university places this year have increased by 8.2 per cent compared with 2004. It is unclear how much of the increase is due to applicants seeking to avoid top-up fees in England next year.
But the figures - which show the number of applications the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service received by June 30 - reveal the number of English applicants to Scottish institutions are up by 16.8 per cent and to Welsh universities by 12 per cent.
Kat Fletcher, president of the National Union of Students, said: "Students are still unclear not only about the levels of support on offer but also about the regional differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."
Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:
"The rather large increase in numbers applying from England to Scottish institutions may be fees-related."
Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, said: "There is no evidence that this is because of the change in financial arrangements coming in 2006. But it is still vital that people understand the new system which is why we are putting so much in to the public awareness campaign that we announced earlier this week."
Fifty-five per cent of this year's 486,915 applicants are women. There is a 62.9 per cent rise in applications from the ten countries that joined the European Union last year. Non-EU applications have risen by 3.9 per cent despite falls from East Asian countries.