The first signs that student university applications are bouncing back after the introduction of £9,000 a year fees emerged today.
Figures published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show an increase in applicants compared with two years ago - before the introduction of the new fees regime.
In all, there were 56,753 applications compared with 56,082 two years ago and 55,618 last year. The number of applicants from England - whose students bear the brunt of the cost of the new fees regime is still slightly down - 36, 051 this year compared with 36, 163 two years.
The news, though, will be a heartening sign for ministers after the 7.5 per cent overall drop in applications for 2012.
The figures cover all Oxford and Cambridge courses and medicine, veterinary and dentistry courses at all universities - where the deadline for applications to be given equal treatment was October 15.
Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, described the picture painted as “encouraging”.
“Not only are they up against last year but also on 2011,” she added. “Although this is a subset of applicants for higher education at the highest levels of achievement, I remain optimistic about overall demand in the 2013 cycle.”