No up-front tuition fees cause applications to surge by 20 per cent at Scottish colleges

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The Independent Online

Scottish universities have received a late surge of applications since ministers agreed in January to abolish up-front tuition fees, according to figures published today.

Late applications were up by nearly 20 per cent on the same period last year, according to figures from admissions officials. The leap follows a 2.5 per cent fall in applications from Scotland by the December deadline.

There has been no increase in the number of students in England and Wales applying for university places in Scotland as they still have to pay tuition fees.

Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), said: "We have had many more applications than usual from Scotland between December and March, which seems to indicate that many people were delaying their application until they knew either the recommendations of the Cubie inquiry or the Scottish executive's decision on tuition fees."

Scottish students attending Scottish universities do not have to pay £1,000-a-year contributions to their tuition until after they have graduated.

Across Britain the overall number of applications for university places was down by 1 per cent. The number of applications from mature students was down by 5 per cent and the number from overseas students was down by 2.6 per cent.

A spokesman for the National Union of Students (NUS) said yesterday: "The fact that applications from Scottish students have risen, while the rest have fallen, should send a clear message to Westminster.

"These figures clearly show that the only way to promote continued expansion is by scrapping fees and properly funding students in need."

Ucas figures showed "new" universities recorded the biggest increases in applications, with the University of Central Lancashire heading the league for the second year with an increase of nearly 50 per cent. Napier University in Edinburgh, however, had a 14.7 per cent fall in applications.

Applications to vocational subjects increased substantially. Media studies applications increased by 17 per cent while computer science applications rose by nearly 10 per cent.

Applications for medicine courses fell substantially after the number of medical schools each candidate could apply to was reduced.