Top-up fees spark rush for university places

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The Independent Online

University applications have risen by nearly 9 per cent this year as students rush to secure university places before the introduction of top-up fees.

University applications have risen by nearly 9 per cent this year as students rush to secure university places before the introduction of top-up fees.

More than 31,000 extra students have applied for courses for 2005, according to the latest figures from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas). It is the final year before universities are allowed to charge up to £3,000 a year in tuition fees.

However, applications from overseas dropped by 5.3 per cent, sparking fears that high prices have deterred foreign candidates, putting the £10.4bn income they bring to universities under threat.

The largest increases in applications were from mature students. Applications from over-25s rose by nearly 16 per cent, suggesting that large numbers had decided to take the plunge in 2005 to avoid top-up fees.

The number of under-21s applying to university rose by 8 per cent this year compared to just 1.5 per cent in 2004.

Headteachers said they hoped fear of top-up fees would not deter school-leavers from taking gap years. Under a concession in the legislation, students who take a gap year before starting university in 2006 will be exempt from fees if they apply this year and defer their places.

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