Cambridge University has suffered a severe drop in the number of European Union students applying for postgraduate places. Applications from EU students fell 14 per cent in 1999-2000 but Cambridge does not know why, writes Caroline Davis.
Overall, Cambridge's postgraduate applications were down 5 per cent on the previous year, with a 4 per cent drop from UK students and 2.5 per cent fewer overseas students applying. But the number of offers to EU students for research places rose 6.6 per cent.
Laurie Friday, secretary of the Cambridge board of graduate studies, said the university had no firm data on why applications should be down.
She said that Cambridge still had so many applicants that it had not had to compromise its entry standards and had no trouble filling places. But she added that the university was concerned that the best candidates were not coming forward.
James Groves, general secretary for the National Postgraduate Committee, said EU students were becoming less likely to apply to UK universities for postgraduate study.
He said: "There is a big debate in the European postgraduate community about mobility and intercomparability. The UK system is slightly out of sync."
He said that more specialised undergraduate degrees and shorter masters and PhD courses meant that European students in the UK found it difficult to fit into postgraduate courses, although Scotland fared slightly better.
He said another problem was the perception of funding cuts in the UK, especially in support service areas, such as English-language teaching.
A British Council spokesman said the organisation had noticed drops in applications to UK universities from Greek and Irish students, perhaps because of expanding home university systems.