By Maximilian Clarke

‘Total applicants for all courses’ in UK higher education institutions are 9% fewer than last year, according to the University and Colleges Admissions Servece (UCAS) lasts provisional figures.

Much of the loss has been attributed to the rise in tuition fees, along with the continued economic downturn. The decline has been particularly pronounced among more mature students, with those aged over 30 dropping by more than 20%, and those ages 40 and over falling by 27%.

"It is too early in the applications cycle for data to reveal underlying trends - the main UCAS deadline is not until January,” cautioned science minister, David Willets, before urging applicants not to be deterred by the price rises.

"It is important that no one is put off applying to university because they do not have information about how the new student finance system works. To ensure this message reaches all prospective students and their parents we have extended the England-wide school and college tour, with more graduates presenting and evening information sessions for parents. We are also rolling out a video that teachers can use to help give the facts.

"Going to university depends on ability not the ability to pay. Most new students will not pay upfront, there will be more financial support for those from poorer families and everyone will make lower loan repayments than they do now once they are in well paid jobs."

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