TEARS shed over the abolition of student tuition fees appear to be paying dividends in a rise in university applications. The small decline in student numbers in the current year is likely to be reversed if trends continue.
Between December 16 and March 24, 3,857 Scots applied for a place, against 3,236 last year.
Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said: "Although the overall increase is only small, it is significant because in December the number of Scottish applicants was 2.5 per cent down on the previous year. Scotland was showing the biggest fall in applicants among United Kingdom countries, but it is now showing the biggest rise which seems to indicate that many peole were delaying their application until they knew either the recommendations of the Cubie inquiry or the Scottish Executive's decisions on tuition fees."
Robin McAlpine, a university principals' spokesman, said: "It is a good sign that application figures to Scottish higher education look healthy now that the uncertainty over student funding has been removed. However, while the changes have had an effect, we mustn't get carried away."
The total number of applications is just 0.1 per cent higher than last year, a mere 22 more students. Figures will continue to rise if the trend of late applications continues this year.
Applications last autumn dipped by 0.7 per cent over 1998, with 183 fewer students.