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Mixed message;In brief

Overall applications to Scottish universities have fallen by 4.5 per cent, compared with a 2.4 per cent drop for the UK as a whole.

Figures released last week showed a smaller 1.9 per cent fall in applicants for Scottish universities from within Scotland, and only 0.6 per cent in Scottish applicants under 21. But those wanting to start in second year or later have risen by 23 per cent.

More worrying for the Government, as free tuition ends next session, is the steep decline in the number of mature applicants - down 15 per cent for the over-25s across the UK. The Scottish Office hopes its pound;6 million for free tuition for part-time higher education students will help stem the fall.

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