Top university unions warn of places shortfall

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by Stevie Kearney, Head of News

The government is coming under increasing pressure to lift the cap imposed on university places as figures today revealed a third annual rise in the number of applications.  Figures from UCAS, the University and College Admission Service, show an increase of 7.8% against last year, with a 12.6% increase from mature students.

The top student body the NUS have been joined by the staff and lecturers’ union the UCU in calling for the government to take action to avoid a crisis in the next few years.

NUS President Wes Streeting said, “It is hugely encouraging to see a record breaking number of applications to Britain’s universities, but we remain concerned about the lack of places available as a result of the cap on numbers imposed by the Government.‬‪

“It is surely better to bear the cost of additional university places now than to shoulder the burden of long term unemployment later.

The UCU general secretary Sally Hunt backed the NUS position, “Historically recessions have seen a rise in university applications and we need to ensure that people have access to the courses that they need. We believe the government should remove the recent cap on student numbers in a strong gesture that it shares our belief in the power of education as a force for good.

The current economic downturn has caused a sharp rise in unemployment and many people are now choosing to retrain and learn new skills.  Law remains the top choice for university applicants, but nursing has seen the biggest increase this year, up by 15.8%.  This represents 7,424 applications across the UK.

Applications to UK universities from abroad have also continued to rise, with a rise of 11.2%.  China continues to provide the greatest number of non-EU students, rising by a further 7.5%.

If the cap is lifted, there are concerns for British students of a potential significant increase for UK places from abroad. Universities can charge higher fees for foreign students, possibly leaving UK applicants without places.

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