Mind the gap

August 22, 1997

Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, took about 40 telephone calls a day last week from journalists eager for the latest clearing information. This might explain the chaos, reflected in ever more alarmist news reports, which provoked an extraordinary government attack accusing Higgins of "scaremongering" over students rushing into the applications system to secure the last free university places.

Higgins maintains that he never predicted a figure for last-minute applications, but simply pointed out that there were 90,000 people who could theoretically join the system. Journalists were left to interpret - provoking the embarrassing 11th-hour U-turn by the Government, waiving fees for 19,000 gap-year students. Needless to say, Higgins's relationship with the education department is now a little shaky. But perhaps not for long. The media-friendly Higgins, ever available to brief journalists, has taken an unprecedented step - he's advertised for a media relations officer.

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