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Course applications plunge

Architecture schools are blaming the £1000 student fees imposed following the Dearing Report for a big drop in course applications as they race against time to make up a 7 per cent shortfall of applicants.

ucas reported 14,405 applications compared with 15,491 last year, and Liverpool University, Oxford Brookes University and Portsmouth University have joined more than 20 others in 'clearing'. The percentage drop is worse than last year's 6.5 per cent fall from the year before, and reinforces fears that the slump is more than a short-term blip.

Course tutors blame higher fees and the recent boom years of admissions. Many said students were deferring entry for a year to scrape together the £1000 fee. George Henderson, who sits on the riba education committee, also said the extra two years of education were putting off people.

Instead students are switching to sport and computer courses, which are enjoying 10 and 20 per cent increases in applications, said ucas. As a result, construction subjects are finding it hard to beat the squeeze. Engineering was down 7 per cent with civil engineering 11.2 per cent off last year's total. The trend in construction compares with a comfortable 1.7 per cent slack across the board, making it one of the worst-hit areas.

Henderson, also head of architecture at De Montfort University, said his school had gone into clearing. It was looking to plug an 8 per cent fall, but expected to end up with just more than 60 students, instead of a full house of 70.

riba education vice-president Paul Hyett said: 'In recent years oversupply has had a dramatic effect on earning capacity: a shortfall is not all bad news. There must be a relationship between demand for architecture services and the number of architects available. If you oversupply, it is very hard to maintain an adequate fee level.'

Lincolnshire and Humberside's school was in line with the national trend, but 'was keeping its head above the water', said a spokesman. Applications to Brighton University also reflected the 7 per cent drop. Mark Hoar, undergraduate course leader, said: 'I'm not surprised; cost and course length make this a big investment. We try very hard not to offer places below 18 points or ccc grades. It is the old problem of do you go for quantity or quality?'

Wendy Potts, head of school at Portsmouth, said she was on course to recruit 110 students: 'We haven't had problems, but many students are deferring entry because they haven't earned their £1000 fee. We went into clearing because other construction courses are down such as civil engineering. There needs to be research on applications by schosa.'

Huddersfield University, which last year was 12 per cent down on applications at pre-clearing, was however on target this year to fill all its 60 places. Admissions tutor Denis Carling put it down to a new faculty building and good publicity for the course. Oxford Brookes University was also trawling clearing for good applicants or for students who didn't take up their places on the 85-strong course.

Admissions tutor Byron Mikellides said: 'In the last 15 years we have only been in clearing three times. You often find mature people who have travelled or have a good portfolio, but not necessarily the grades requires by other schools.'

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