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Higher fees mean more places for students, UCAS analysis finds

Universities have become more ready to admit young applicants who became less likely to apply for a place following the introduction of higher tuition fees, an analysis by the Universities and Colleges Admission Service has found.

The acceptance rate for young applicants has increased to such an extent that many students who have been admitted would have needed an extra A level grade to get in before £9,000 fees were introduced in 2011.

The analysis shows that young application rates fell by 5 per cent in 2012 after a long period of annual increases.

However, UCAS says that while “it is likely that application rates remain a little below what they would have been if higher fees had not been introduced”, the overall long term trend of rising demand for higher education has not been thrown off course.

Thanks to higher acceptance rates, opportunities for young people to enter higher education have not diminished, and the proportion entering HE has continued to increase steadily since universities began charging higher fees.

There was a dip in recruitment in 2012-13 as the higher fees were brought in “but around half of this was due to swings in deferred entry”, UCAS says.

Stronger growth rates in both demand and entry have also meant more opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to find a place – including in more selective institutions.

UCAS also debunks the theory that there was a rush of applications to enter higher education in the year before higher fees came in. It says applications for that cycle were “more of less on trend”. Rather than a rush to apply, there was a “rush to get in” – with applicants much more likely to start their course right away rather than taking a year out first.