Mature student numbers fall again

April 16, 1999

The number of applications for university places has fallen again. Figures for the second applications deadline of March 24 are down by 2.5 per cent on last year, the University and Colleges Admissions Service revealed today.

Applications from prospective mature students based in the United Kingdom were down by 11 per cent. Overseas applications from all age groups were also down.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said that the government was providing extra places on part-time courses to encourage more mature students into higher education. "At times when the economy is buoyant, there is an increase in the number of part-time students," she said. "Two-thirds of mature students chose this route." The government has funded 35,000 extra student places next year, of which 20,000 will be part-time, she added.

"The drop in the number of mature applicants is disappointing," said Tony Higgins, chief executive of UCAS. "However, the government's recent announcement of initiatives to widen participation among mature applicants and disadvantaged groups should help to tackle this."

The only group to show a slight rise in applications was UK-based school-leavers, up 0.1 per cent. But the increase is more than accounted for by the growth in the number of 18 to 20-year-olds. The figure is also down on the 0.4 per cent increase shown at the first applications deadline of December 15.

Scotland remains hard hit, with applications down by 6 per cent on last year. Northern Ireland is down by 5.8 per cent, England by 2.7 per cent and Wales by 2.2 per cent.

Applications for degree courses in primary education, general studies, mechanical engineering, languages and civil engineering were all down by more than 10 per cent. Teacher training was down 12.5 per cent. Applications for computer science and software engineering degree courses showed the greatest rises.

The latest figures relate to applications received by the March 24 deadline for art and design courses via "route B". Applications made through this route are assessed sequentially by institutions in order of the prospective student's preference.

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