Record rush for Norfolk university places as young people bid to beat fees increase
Record numbers of would-be undergraduates are applying to study at the region's universities as they try to escape the 2012 tuition fees increase.
One university is three-and-a-half times oversubscribed for its September 2011 places, while another has seen applications rise by one-third in 12 months.
The rush for places has been complicated by thousands of second attempts by applicants who missed out on courses last year.
With an estimated 700,000 people vying for 479,000 places across the UK this year, it means thousands of East Anglia's A-level students are set to miss out on their higher education dream.
By the initial deadline of January 15, applications to the University of East Anglia (UEA) were up by almost 19pc on the same time last year. At University College Suffolk (UCS), they have risen by 32pc, while at Norwich University College of the Arts (Nuca), they are up by 22pc.
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Although exact numbers will be released by the University and College Admissions Service (Ucas) today, UEA and UCS would not reveal the figures in advance. At UEA, the increase is likely to amount to more than 3,000 extra applicants, while at UCS it is at least 1,000.
Nuca was happy to reveal figures, and said it had received 2,009 applications for 575 places.
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The extraordinary increases in East Anglia are set to dwarf the national figure, expected to be announced by Ucas, of about 7-8pc.
And the figures are set to rise further in the coming months, with applications still welcomed by many institutions.
Nuca principal Prof John Last said a government cap on university places this year meant competition for places was 'fierce'.
He said: 'We only make offers of places to students after we have viewed a portfolio of their work and seen them for an interview. We would encourage students who are confident in the quality of their work to apply as soon as possible to get the best chance of securing an interview.'
Suzy Gook, head of marketing and admissions services at UEA, said: 'There were some people who didn't get in last year who were poised to apply this year.
'The demographics means there are also a fair number of 18 year olds about this year. And quite often there are students who will apply to defer their places for a year. But because there is no slack from the government about the introduction of the fees, some of them are agreeing to come this year instead.'
Mrs Gook said the 18.85pc increase in applications at this stage was similar to the increase last year.
Lucy Whitmore, head of admissions at UCS, said: 'We are a rapidly growing institution and we are continuing to attract a large number of local students, but we are also seeing an increasing number of applications from the surrounding counties, across the UK and small numbers from EU and non-EU countries.
'The increase in applications also suggests applicants are making the decision to apply to us a lot earlier in the cycle and to apply before the changes in the fee structure for 2012 entry.'
In December last year, MPs voted through legislation to increase tuition fees from the current �3,290 a year maximum to as high as �9,000 a year.
The increase, from September 2012, coincides with a big reduction in government funding for universities as ministers seek to transfer the funding burden to those who take the courses.
The decision, plus a November commons debate on the same subject, sparked huge marches from those opposed to the fees increases, and scenes of violence in London.
WHAT NORTH WALSHAM'S PASTON COLLEGE STUDENTS THINK
Gareth Daniels, 18, has applied to the UEA to study physical sport.
He said: 'It is going to be tough, because of so many people applying, and those that do not get in this year will be applying next year, so there will be even more.'
Corrine Ainsworth, 17, is hoping to go to the University of Lincoln to study English.
She said: 'I am worried about the competition to get into the university because it is very popular and the subject is popular as well.'
Lauren Hickling, 18, has applied to University of Lincoln to study psychology.
She said: 'I am fearful because there are a lot of applications for psychology and not a lot of places at all.'
Albert Perez, 17, has applied to the UEA to study a Spanish and French translation degree.
He said: 'I am worried about the competition for places, because so many people are applying. I am hopeful I will get the place, though, as I need at least three Bs, and I should get an A in Spanish and a B in French.'
Peggy Baldwin, 18, is hoping to study broadcast journalism at Leeds University.
She said: 'I really want to get into Leeds, but I know it is tough as I think there are around 25 applications for each place.'
Ryan Hughes, 24, a student mentor at Paston who has been helping students apply for university places, said: 'There have been a lot more applications for university, but the applications from the Paston students are very strong, so we are very confident they will get places.'
Laura Gaff, 23, who is also a student mentor, added: 'A lot of the students at Paston have started to apply earlier for places as well, which is really good. They have been really proactive in putting in applications, which will stand them in good stead if applications are judged on a first-come-first-served basis.'