‘Record-breaking’ admissions please Education minister

23 October 2008

UCAS has stated that 2008 is a “record-breaking year in terms of both those applying and those being accepted to full-time higher education courses.”

Statistics released by the higher education organization show that the number of undergraduates beginning a full-time course in the United Kingdom has risen by 9.5% compared to the last academic year. This is matched by an increase in undergraduate applications of roughly 51,000 students.

This figure includes the 13,000 or so nursing and midwifery entrants who would have, in former times, employed a different application system. Even without them the data still shows a 6.3% increase in undergraduate entries.

This is the second consecutive year of strong growth in the higher education sector ,despite concerns that higher tuition fees would deter applicants.

But the figures may not be as attractive as they seem. A study published by Universities UK earlier this summer indicated that there was “no significant change in the ethnic, social class or age profile of accepted applicants across the four years 2004/5-2007/8.”

This remains the case despite government efforts to counter social bias in higher education . It has been suggested that the rise in graduates may, in fact, disproprotionately hurt those who don’t enter university education, due to the increase in competition posed by their better-qualified counterparts.

Higher Education minister, David Lammy, nevertheless praised the strong increase in acceptances into universities and higher education. He added, though, that, ” there remains more to do”.

Other statistics of interest include the fact that women continue to outnumber men by a ratio of 5:4. The number of students entering higher education in the UK from Singapore, India and China has also risen markedly, with the latter of the three being the most popular country of origin for foreign undergraduates.

UCAS’s chief executive, Anthony McClaran, commented: “This has been a remarkable year for applications to full-time undergraduate courses in the UK…Demand has not simply remained steady – it has increased very significantly on top of last year’s strong growth.”