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University applications 15 per cent down on last year

University applications are slumping even further behind the levels of last year, according to figures published yesterday.

They show a 15.1 per cent drop for UK candidates compared with this time last year. A similar comparison last month found the figure was 12.9 per cent.

When foreign candidates are included, the fall registered by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service was 12.9 per cent compared with just over 9 per cent a month ago.

The slump was highest from the North-east where the numbers were down by 21.4 per cent.

University lecturers blamed the rise in tuition fees to up to £9,000 a year. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers' union, said: "Putting financial barriers in front of young people is a policy of penalising ambition."

However, vice-chancellors and Ucas said it was still early in this year's applications process. The deadline for applying to guarantee equal treatment is 15 January.