Relief as leap in university student recruits shows that fees have failed to put off school-leavers

Figures show a six per cent rise as new fees regime of up to £9,000 a year kicks in

A substantial rise in the number of students recruited to universities this summer is revealed today in statistics published by UCAS, the universities and colleges admissions service.

They show a six per cent rise on recruitment compared to last year - the first year of the new fees regime of up to £9,000 a year - leading to 459,750 students being placed.

The figure is 8,000 higher than three years ago - the year before the rush to beat the new fee rises - and will bring a sigh of relief to the lips of ministers as it appears to be the first long-term indication that the bulk of school leavers are not put off by high fees.

An analysis shows the biggest rise is amongst school leavers and 19-year-olds - up 6,800 and 10,600 respectively.  However, after a decline last year, the number of 20 to 24-year-olds and over 25s are also rising - by 3,600 and 960 respectively.

Recruitment is still continuing, though, with 2,420 applicants being placed within the last 24 hours - 1,170 through the clearing system.

"More applicants have been placed through the clearing process (43,400) than in previous cycles," said Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS.  "Although the busiest part of clearing has passed, recruitment for this autumn is still continuing."

A subject by subject breakdown of the accepted places showed an increase in the numbers taken on to traditionally popular courses while there was a slight decline in languages, where several universities have considered closing down departments because of the dearth of applicants opting for modern foreign languages at A-level.

There are still 141,180 students eligible for a place through the clearing system - indicating many, if they are still in the hunt face disappointment.  In addition, 32,100 are awaiting confirmation of offers.

One of the reasons the numbers could go higher still this year is as a result of the Government's decision to allow all universities to increase their student numbers provided they recruit candidates with at least an A and two B grade passes at A-level.