Student place numbers could create admissions 'storm'

image captionDemand for full time university places has increased over the past four years

A Scottish academic has warned that many of those applying for university places through clearing this year may be disappointed.

John Field of Stirling University said the economic downturn had encouraged more young people to stay in education.

He claimed this would combine with limited places to create a "perfect storm" over admissions.

Professor Field called for more student places to be created, particularly for courses with the lowest drop-out rates.

He is due to outline his proposals in a speech at Glasgow Caledonian University later.

Pointing to recent statistics, he claimed more students were staying in higher education, with a fall in the drop-out rate.

Furthermore, demand for full time university places rose sharply since 2007.

This was accompanied with a similar increase in the numbers applying for degree courses in colleges.

Prof Field said at least some of this increased demand could be attributed to a shortage of jobs available to school-leavers.

Investment in recovery

He pointed out that, with fewer places becoming available, many people applying through clearing this summer or applying for places next year would face severe competition.

image captionMore young people are staying in education

Prof Field said two "safety valves" for unsuccessful applicants may no longer be effective.

Firstly, he said there was less incentive for universities to offer part-time places because of the rise in demand for full-time education.

In addition, an overall rise in student recruitment by universities had effectively been ruled out.

Their representative body, Universities Scotland, has warned of a radical cut in student places from 2012.

Prof Field urged the Scottish government and the Scottish Funding Council to allow universities to recruit above their permitted numbers.

He also suggested that higher education should be treated as an investment in recovery, with additional resources going to courses where the prospects of successful completion were highest.

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