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University applications have increased by 4 per cent this year to 659,030, new figures show.
Included in that is 9,000 more mature students than applied last year.
The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) figures, which show applications up to the June 30 deadline, were described as “excellent news” by Professor Les Ebdon, the director of OFFA, the Office for Fair Access to higher education.
Applications from the home countries were up by 3 per cent, while applications from the rest of the EU rose by 5 per cent and from international students increased by 6 per cent.
The gender gap has widened with male applicants making up 42.8 per cent of the total compared with 43.1 per cent last year. Some 94,000 more women applied this year than men.
By subject, the biggest winners were science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Engineering applications rose by 10 per cent, while interest in computer science increased by 12 per cent.
Once again, applicants to foreign languages fell, with European and non-European suffering drops of 5 per cent.
Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:
“The opportunities afforded by higher education are not just there for young people, but also for people of any age. It is therefore particularly good to see an increase of nearly 9,000 more mature students compared to last year. We are a knowledge-based economy and rely increasingly on people to develop their skills throughout their lives.
“The increase in applicants applying for subjects such as engineering and computing is also welcome. Those subjects play a vital role in meeting the skills needs of UK employers in globally competitive industries.”
But she raised concerns that STEM subjects were still male dominated.
“It is still a concern that the number of women applying to study these courses remains disproportionally low when compared to the number of male applicants. Universities are aware of this and continue to work hard to encourage women into technology and engineering through their outreach activities.”
Professor Ebdon said:
“These figures are excellent news. Applicants are clearly recognising the advantages of higher education, and are embarking on a potentially life-changing journey. At the same time, our economy and society will continue to benefit from a consistent supply of highly-qualified graduates.”
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