Vocational way forward
Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show the continuing decline of traditional subjects such as the pure sciences in favour of more practical courses such as those allied to medicine or applied engineering which can lead to well-paid jobs.
GNVQs, the vocational alternative to A-level, have also gained acceptance. The number of students using them to get into university has trebled in the past three years. All but 30 of Britain's higher education institutions have so far this year accepted applicants with the qualification. Most are going to new universities, where courses more closely match the GNVQ mode of study. For the first time this year, courses offered by polytechnics which became universities in 1992 outnumber those offered by the older institutions.
Tony Higgins, the chief executive of UCAS, said: "The post-92 universities appear to be following a policy of diversity in constructing and marketing their programmes."
Computer sciences and software engineering are on the rise, while "caring" but relatively low-paid professions such as social work, nursing and teaching show continued decline. "Physiotherapy and occupational therapy are increasingly becoming graduate professions," Dr Higgins said.
While total applications increased this year, the number of mature applicants fell. Fees could be a cause, over-21s with jobs and mortgages being more reluctant to take on extra debts.
But Dr Higgins said the fall was also part of a three-year trend. It could be the flow had dried up of members of the baby-boomer generation who were unable to get to university in the pre-expansion 1970s. More research is planned.
A Statistical Bulletin of Subject Trends, 1997 Entry: copies pound;5 from UCAS, Fulton House, Jessop Ave, Cheltenham GL50 3SH.