Students return to science ... but shun West Midlands

February 21, 1997

The North West Midlands is suffering a bout of unpopularity among prospective students according to an unofficial league table of applications that will dismay admissions officers in the region,

A comparison of numbers of entries to individual universities from January 1995 and January 1996 across the higher education sector shows that Wolverhampton University has suffered the biggest decline in numbers, down almost 3,000. Second worst is the University of Central England followed closely by Birmingham and Staffordshire universities.

At the top of the scale Brunel University has picked up an additional 4,300 applicants over the year. Former polytechnics dominate the winners thereafter with Southbank, Brighton, North London and Huddersfield all bunched at the top. Just two of the top ten, Brunel and Bristol, are "old" institutions.

The league table was compiled by John Gledhill, academic registrar at Coventry University, which appears at number 11 on the list.

Gerald Bennett, pro vice chancellor at Wolverhampton, did not dispute the figures but was keen to stress that the university has seen large gains in student numbers over recent years and that the downturn reflected a strategy of targeting admissions on the local market.

Nevertheless he said there was an element of unreality about the figures. "We are not interested in applications for applications sake," he said. "Our applications from the West Midlands are up 10 per cent and this is the key for us. I would be really worried if we were losing our share of local students."

Professor Bennett confessed to puzzlement over the apparent decline in popularity of the North West Midlands. "This is clearly some kind of trend which we are unable to explain at present," he said.

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