More students are delaying applying to university, according to figures released today by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
The number of potential students who applied by the December 15 deadline last year was down by 1.8 per cent. UCAS chief executive Tony Higgins suggested that many students could be weighing up their financial situation before applying. "An important factor could be that tuition fees were introduced in 1997. Students are paying customers who are looking not just for the best education but for a return in terms of job prospects," he said.
The proportion of students applying after the deadline date has grown since the introduction of fees; last year, less than three-quarters of the eventual total had applied by the deadline.
"Applying late can be a risk because universities and colleges do not guarantee to consider applications received after December 15. Some of the most popular subjects, courses and institutions will be full. But for those applying for less popular choices, it is becoming an option," said Mr Higgins.
Mature applicant numbers were down again, the figures revealed. Fewer than 20,000 British people aged 25 years or more had applied for a full-time place by the deadline, down 5.4 per cent on the previous year.
Civic universities are feeling the squeeze, while institutions that serve local markets attracted more applications than ever.
Applications to the University of Liverpool were down by 12 per cent. The numbers of potential students applying to the universities of Hull, Newcastle, Manchester and Leicester were all down by between 7 and 10 per cent.
It is the reverse at the University of Central Lancashire. Fifty per cent more have applied than last year. Some 15,122 applicants are vying for places compared with 10,115 last year.
Smaller institutions such as Buckingham Chilterns University College and Falmouth School of Art both registered an increase of more than 20 per cent.
Subjects such as computer science remained popular - applications were up 10 per cent. Applications for cinematics and media studies courses climbed, while the decline in the popularity of the physical sciences persisted.