Scotland

Scottish university applications fall slightly

University of Glasgow Image copyright Steve Houldsworth

The number of Scots applying to university has fallen slightly, according to the latest official figures from admissions service UCAS.

The figure is down 1% on the equivalent number for last year which was a record high.

The drop across the UK as a whole is significantly greater.

The Scottish government noted that the number of 18-year-old applicants from deprived areas still went up.

However, the number of applicants from EU countries fell 5%, suggesting uncertainty surrounding Brexit may have deterred some people from applying to study in Scotland.

Universities Scotland noted the number of Scottish applications was down by about 2,000 but said this followed a record high last year and it did not see the fall as a cause for concern.

A spokeswoman said: "The appetite for university remains very high amongst Scots. This year's applications by the January deadline are still 13% up on just four years ago.

"The very modest levelling-off from last year's peak in applications will do little to take the pressure off places given the very high standard of applicants."

European students

The number of applications from EU countries also fell by around 2,000. EU students who start courses this year will be entitled to free tuition on the same terms as Scottish applicants.

This is currently required under EU law and the Scottish government has confirmed it will ensure EU students who begin their courses this year will be entitled to free tuition until they graduate although the expectation is that the UK will have left the EU by then.

The number of applications from other parts of the UK and countries outside the EU - all of whom are charged tuition fees in one form or another - rose.

Scottish and EU students in effect compete against each other for the same free places - the drop in the number of applicants could make it slightly easier for some applicants to get in. Universities can decide for themselves how many paying students from the rest of the UK and countries outside the EU to let in.

Scottish government education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said: "The initial UCAS applicant figures for 2017 show that, in the face of a general decline in applicants to universities across the UK, the number of applicants to Scottish institutions has remained broadly steady."

She added: "This is welcome, but the SFC statistics show that the entry rate into universities from the most deprived areas among young people during 2015-16 fell back slightly.

"We know we have much more work to do on widening access, and since this cohort applied to university we have committed to implementing the recommendations from the Commission on Widening Access and appointed our Fair Access Commissioner, Prof Peter Scott, to drive this agenda across the country."

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