Drop in number of EU students applying for UK university courses
Fewer EU students have applied to start university courses in the UK next autumn, figures show.
There was a 9% fall in the numbers who had applied for courses with an early deadline of October 15, according to admissions service UCAS.
The drop comes in the wake of the Brexit vote, which caused uncertainty over whether or not EU students applying to start courses at English institutions in September 2017 would be eligible for loans and grants in the future.
Ministers announced on October 11 - four days before the early application deadline - that these students will be able to access funding for the duration of their degree. This arrangement will be honoured even if the UK leaves the EU during this time.
The UCAS statistics take into account only students who applied for medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses, as well as those applying to Oxford and Cambridge.
Overall, the number of UK students applying by October 15 rose by 3% to 39,440, while applications from EU students fell from 6,860 to 6,240 - a fall of 9%, and ending a trend of annual increases in recent years.
Applicant numbers from students in countries outside the EU rose by 1%, the figures show.
The data also reveals that while the number of English 18-year-olds applying to study medicine has risen by 5%; overall there was a 4% drop in applications compared to last year, with 19,210 applying for courses starting in autumn 2017.
Earlier this month, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans to train up to 1,500 more doctors a year in a bid to tackle the recruitment crisis and make NHS England ''self-sufficient'' in doctors by the middle of the next decade.
UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: "This is an encouraging increase in applicants to the October deadline courses, particularly given the 2% decrease in the 18-year-old population.
"We will be watching the numbers of EU applications in the run-up to the January deadline, especially now that the Government has confirmed arrangements for continuing access to student loans for 2017 courses."
The main UCAS deadline for students applying to study courses from next autumn is January 15.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "Only a small percentage of applicants apply by this date and we must wait until the main January deadline before we see the full picture for this application cycle. We know that demand from overseas for UK university courses remains strong due to the high quality of British universities.
"This fall does, however, highlight the importance of ensuring that prospective European applicants are made fully aware of the fees and financial support arrangements well in advance of the applications window. It is important also that we make clear that European students continue to be welcome in coming to the UK to study."
A Government spokesman said: "International students make an important contribution to the UK's world-class universities.
"It is too early in the application cycle to predict reliable trends, but the overall increase in applicant numbers is positive - and suggests even more students will be able to benefit from higher education next year."