50pc jump in number applying to attend UK colleges
THE number of Irish students applying for university places in Britain and Northern Ireland has rocketed by 50pc this year.
It comes on top of record numbers looking for places in colleges at home.
Official figures released last night show that, as of January 22, there were more than 7,000 applications from students in the Republic for places in the UK, compared with more than 4,600 at the same time last year.
The figures were released by UCAS, the UK's applications service, which reported that the next highest volume of applications came from China at just over 4,000, followed by Germany at just over 3,000.
The figures for Irish applicants will continue to rise and will almost certainly hit the 8,000 figure by June, if not 8,500. They have been creeping up, in recent years, but not on the scale of the dramatic rise this year. The increase of 50.4pc follows the massive jump in applications for places to the CAO for entry to Irish universities or colleges this autumn.
Irish Independent career guidance expert Mary O'Donnell said last night it was another indication of how anxious young people were to secure a place in college in the autumn.
"It means that already 10pc of students who applied to the CAO have also applied to UCAS," she said.
The surge in applications reflects the poor economic outlook on the jobs front as well as the scarcity of apprenticeships for young males.
Irish students going to England and Northern Ireland face top-up fees of Stg£3,225 (€3,683) but this does not seem to put them off either applying or accepting places. Last year there was an 8.9pc increase on the 2008 figures of 2,623 acceptances by Irish students.
But it's not just Irish students who are applying in record numbers for college. UCAS said that for the fourth year running, full-time undergraduate applications had risen.
"As of January 22, 2010 there were 570,556 applicants -- a rise of 106,389 or 22.9pc over 2009. The UK saw an increase in applicants of 22.1pc, while overseas applicants rose from 55,245 to 71,105 (up 28.7pc). Ireland (50.4pc), China (22.4pc), Germany (23.7pc) and Lithuania (102.3pc) showed the most significant percentage increases," said an official statement.
The biggest increase in Britain was for courses in nursing, which were up 73.7pc. Applications also increased for mature students -- up 63.4pc for those aged over 25. A similar pattern has emerged in Ireland where many mature applicants have lost their jobs.
Last night, Berni Brady, the director of the Irish National Adult Learning organisation, (AONTAS), called on the Government to 'get serious' about providing training and education initiatives for people who were unemployed.
"This pattern is evident across all sectors of the further education sector -- including adult education," said the head of (AONTAS), the national adult education body. In October 2009, 37,000 people applied for a total of 13,000 Post Leaving Certificate places.