Almost 50,000 potential students could be denied a place at university this year due to a sudden rise in the number of applications.
Figures published by Ucas yesterday show that applications to UK universities have risen by a record 9.7 per cent in the past year. The sudden surge is thought to have been caused by people who became unemployed during the recession returning to education.
The figures show an 18 per cent rise in applicants over the age of 25, and a rise of almost 15 per cent in applicants aged between 21 and 24. 592,312 people have applied to begin undergraduate courses at university this September, compared with 540,108 this time last year – an extra 52,204 applicants.
As the Government intends to fund just 3,000 extra places for first-year students this year, about 49,000 people could miss out on university. This is on top of the 100,000 applicants who are turned down because they don't make the grade requirements, apply too late or drop out.
David Willetts, the shadow Universities minister, said ministers were "sleepwalking into a crisis".