More students start courses at Scottish universities

St Andrews University
Image caption Scottish universities continue to attract students from Scotland and the rest of the UK

There has been a substantial rise in the number of students starting courses at Scottish universities.

Figures from the university admissions agency Ucas indicated nearly 37,400 students were starting courses at Scotland's 19 universities.

This represented a rise of nearly 700 on last year.

There was an increase in the number of students from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland - but a drop in the number from other EU countries.

The number of Scottish students was up by 430 to a record high of 27,990.

The total number from other parts of the UK rose by 450. This was mostly because of a rise of about 350 in the number of students from England, while the number from Northern Ireland recovered after a drop last year.

But there was a drop of around 100 in the number of students from other EU countries.

Tuition fees

The figures could help disprove claims Scottish universities would be flooded by undergraduates from other parts of the UK to the detriment of Scots.

Scottish students do not pay tuition fees so a fixed number of places are available, paid for by the Scottish Funding Council. Under European law, these places are also open to citizens of EU counties outside the United Kingdom.

But universities can decide for themselves how many students from England, Wales or Northern Ireland - who have to pay tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year - to admit.

Universities have previously denied claims that Scots were being deprived of places in order to allow fee-paying students from the rest of the UK to get in.

The figures confirmed that a greater number of funded places are available for Scottish and EU students - and that more of them are going to Scots.

27,790 Scots gained a place at a Scottish university this year, compared to 27,550 last year and 27,230 the year before. The number of students from EU countries fell 170 to 4,110.

English students

The number of students from England accepted by Scottish universities rose by 350 to 4,180, while the number from Wales slipped slightly to 110.

The number from Northern Ireland rose by 100 to 1,020 after a drop last year - but this year's figure is in line with 2010 and 2011.

The figures do not distinguish between students who were offered places through the clearing system in August - designed to help find places for those who do not get the qualifications they had hoped for - and those who had already won their place or got the exam results they needed.

Some parents and would-be students have expressed frustration that some courses were not considering applications through the clearing system from Scots but would look at applications from other parts of the UK.

Universities say this was because they had already filled most of the places available to Scots and were adamant Scots were not being refused places to allow fee-paying students from the rest of the UK to get in.

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