Record numbers apply to competitive university courses

Students in lecture Applications to the most competitive university courses are up according to early Ucas figures

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Record numbers of students have applied for the most competitive university courses, according to figures from the admissions service Ucas.

Almost 57,000 applied for dentistry, medicine, or veterinary science courses or to study at Oxford or Cambridge, before their 15 October early deadline.

Ucas says the numbers are 2% higher than for the same courses this time last year.

Chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said the figures were "encouraging".

"Not only are they up against last year but also on 2011. Although this is a subset of applicants for higher education at the highest levels of achievement, I remain optimistic about overall demand in the 2013 cycle", said Ms Curnock Cook.

A breakdown of the same set of figures also shows a slight rise in applications for these courses from English students.

So far almost 600 more students living in England have applied to start one of these courses in 2013, compared with 2012.

In total, 36,051 English students have applied for these courses, compared with the 35,455 who applied for courses starting this autumn - an increase of 1.7%.

Total applicants for courses with October deadline (Ucas figures)

Applicant domicile 2010 2011 2012 2013

England

36,287

36,163

35,455

36,051

Northern Ireland

1,287

1,262

1,109

1,131

Scotland

2,080

2,164

2,102

2,080

Wales

1,539

1,518

1,465

1,408

EU

6,053

6,205

5,862

5,966

Non-EU

8,213

8,770

9,625

10,117

Total

55,450

56,082

55,618

56,783

This year's applicants will be the second cohort to be charged raised tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year - almost three times higher than for courses that started in 2011.

'Pernicious' fees

The general secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, said: "It is encouraging that there has been a slight increase in the number of applications, compared with last year.

"However, a drop in applications last year was predicted as students rushed to avoid the new pernicious fees regime. What is concerning is that the numbers of English students applying are down on both 2011 and 2010."

Students from other parts of the UK receive subsidies for their tuition fees - but despite this the picture was mixed, with applications from Wales and Scotland down 3.9% and 1% respectively and applications from Northern Irish students up 2%.

Applications from European Union students rose 1.8% on last year's figures, and despite changes to visa rules for overseas students their applications were up 5.1% to 10,117.

Non EU students were not affected by last year's fee changes but they generally pay higher fees, set directly by the institution they attend. Survey figures for the year 2012-13 from Universities UK show that international students can expect to pay around £11,200 a year for most courses but those on clinical courses such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science can expect to pay around £28,000.

This time last year Ucas figures showed applications were running at 9% below the level for 2011 - and when applications from overseas students were excluded the drop in applications from UK students was 12%.

The final deadline for applications to the less competitive courses is January.

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