The rising cost of studying for a degree has been good news for the Open University, which has recruited a record number of students aged under 25 this year.
No longer the refuge of middle-aged learners without previous qualifications, the OU has tripled the number of entrants under 25 according to the latest figures; almost half have qualifications that would entitle them to a place at a conventional university.
Allan Cochrane, pro vice-chancellor for students, said fear of debt was one of the primary reasons for the OU's new popularity among younger people who now account for 16,000 students, 10 per cent of the undergraduate cohort.
"We are finding that the cost of going to other universities is discouraging people and, as a consequence, they are turning to the OU," he said. "When you consider that OU students do not have to find the money to live away from home and that our fees are significantly lower, it is not altogether surprising."