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Would-be midwives put blip in Ucas data

In response to your news item last week, "Heads warn of unprecedented scramble for university places", can I point out that, while applications have risen, there are key points that must be considered to reflect accurately all of the reasons behind this increase.

As Ucas itself prominently highlighted when it published the figures last Monday, applications for Scottish nursing and midwifery courses were included for the first time. This accounted for an additional 5,538 applicants. Further analysis by Ucas shows that over half of those applicants were Scots who only applied for nursingmidwifery and hence would not have gone through the Ucas system during the previous year.

This procedural change accounted for almost a third of the increase in applications from Scottish students this year. In addition, the move to a single early deadline for admissions to art and design courses has led to an expected increase in the number of applications at this stage.

Therefore, we need to be careful how we interpret this information at this early stage of the year. Although there has undoubtedly been a rise, I feel this qualification is essential in giving a true picture of the demand faced by our universities.

The Scottish Government has been aware of the potential impact on our universities since the start of the current downturn. The fact is, we are already supporting an additional 7,500 students this year entering higher education. As John Swinney said in his budget statement to Parliament two weeks ago, we will maintain that commitment into the next academic year.

In relation to student support, we have already announced a pound;30 million package to increase student income in the next academic year, which will increase the income of more than 75,000 students and build on a range of other improvements we have made to student support.

Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

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