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Students from 10 new EU nations flock to Britain

By Liz Lightfoot, Education Correspondent

(Filed: 29/04/2004)

A record number of university applications this year includes a threefold increase in students from some of the former communist countries joining the European Union on Saturday.

Official figures from UCAS, the universities and colleges admissions service, published today, show a surge of interest from the 10 accession countries.

These young people will be treated as home students, paying £1,150 a year in fees instead of the overseas charges of £8,000 to £19,000.

Overall, applications for places in the autumn are up by 3.1 per cent compared with the same time last year and 2.2 per cent among the under-21s.

Of the former Soviet bloc, the biggest increase in applications is from Poland, up from 95 last year to 442, a rise of 365 per cent.

Slovakia's applications are up from 23 to 95, a rise of 313 per cent, the Czech Republic's from 54 to 149 (176 per cent), Estonia's from 17 to 56 (229 per cent), Hungary's from 37 to 112 (203 per cent), Latvia's from 19 to 51 (168 per cent), Slovenia's from 12 to 49 (308 per cent) and Lithuania's from 23 to 60 (161 per cent).

Elsewhere, interest has more than doubled in Cyprus, where 1,458 students have made applications compared with 712 last year, and in Malta, up from 17 to 41.

The Higher Education Policy Institute, which has forecast 30,000 extra students from the 10 accession countries by 2010, said today's figures were in line with its predictions.

"There has been the expected significant increase in interest in this, the first year," said Libby Aston, one of the institute's senior researchers. "Numbers will rise steeply as information filters through about opportunities to study in this country."

Miss Aston says she expects demand to increase in 2006 when home and EU students no longer have to pay up-front fees but are given means tested loans to cover them.

The Department for Education has not yet agreed mechanisms within other European Union countries to collect the repayments, due when earnings reach £15,000.

The Government has not funded more places for predicted extra EU students. Universities have been told that they must absorb the loss of overseas fees from about 6,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students from the 10 accession countries presently in the system.

13 March 2004: Universities open their doors to the foreign legion
13 March 2004: Drawn by high academic reputation
4 March 2004: Students face EU fight for places

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