University applications down by almost 50,000

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According to the latest UCAS figures, applications to UK universities were down by 49,535 year on year in the fourth week of May. By this point, the total number of applicants was just under 600,000, as compared to just under 650,000 at the same time last year.

Applications from UK students as a whole were down by 8.9%, although the figure for England was -10% (compared to just -2.2% for Scotland, -2.7% for Wales and -4.4% for Northern Ireland), reinforcing the impact of swingeing tuition fee hikes on the level of interest in a university education.

Demand for arts and social science courses has been particularly badly hit, reflecting the fact that students appear to be shunning courses that lead to poorly-paid employment (or, of course, no employment).

Demand for UK university places from other EU countries is also significantly down, though these falls have been offset to some extent by increases in applications from other parts of the world such as the Middle East, South-East Asia, Australasia and the Americas.

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