University applications falling

THE number of potential students applying for places at Essex University has fallen by more than 6% following the introduction of tuition fees, new figures have revealed.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE number of potential students applying for places at Essex University has fallen by more than 6% following the introduction of tuition fees, new figures have revealed.

But news of the downturn comes as record numbers of young students were reported to be enrolling at Essex's further education colleges.

The University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which has published comprehensive statistics relating to student applications, has reported falling numbers in a number of subject areas.

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However, Mike Nicholson, head of undergraduate admissions at Essex University, said: “While we have experienced a decline in applicant numbers, when compared to last year, the popularity of many of our departments appears to be bucking national trends.”

The university has seen a decline overall in applications of 6.2%, although some individual departments have recorded rises of between 5% and 35%.

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Mr Nicholson, who is also on the UCAS board of directors, said: “Our departments of mathematics, biological sciences, and language and linguistics all have very innovative aspects to their courses which seem to be attracting applicant interest, while economics and sports science, which are recognised as national leaders in their field, are attracting very high calibre applicants this year.”

He added: “The figures provided by UCAS also indicate strong performance for some of our regional partners, particularly the new partnerships with Colchester Institute and University Campus Suffolk.

“This is an encouraging development as these collaborations will provide much more opportunity and choice to local students who may be concerned at the cost of leaving home.”

Meanwhile, Essex's further education colleges have been boosted by record numbers of young learners, the Learning and Skills Council, Essex (LSC Essex) has reported.

The surge in numbers means another 1,000 or more young people each year with enhanced vocational skills will shortly be entering the county's labour market.

The latest figures show an increase of 1,062 learners in the 2005-6 academic year compared to the 2004-5 academic year, with FE enrolments in Essex's 11 FE colleges rising from 21,583 to 22,645.

This figure is expected to rise by a further 350 during the remainder of the academic year.

Another boost may come as some Essex colleges continue to enrol part-time learners throughout the year, including Braintree College, Colchester Institute, Chelmsford College and Writtle College.

James Ayling, LSC Essex's Assistant Director of Planning and Funding, said the figures reveal about a 4% increase in FE enrolment in the county with every college exceeding last year's recruitment figures.

“One of the reasons for this robust growth is that colleges in Essex have successfully shifted their curriculum offer to include a much strong emphasis on vocational learning,” he added.

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