Interim figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, or UCAS in UK show that 335,795 applications were received till the month of December before Christmas last year for 2011 entry to colleges, which marks a 2.5% rise compared with the same period a year before. Subjects that saw the biggest surge in applications were those allied to medicine, veterinary sciences, agriculture and related disciplines and education.

Although it is pretty early in the admissions cycle, the race to get to college is expected to sustain momentum with many trying to gain admission before the trebling of fees comes into effect in 2012. Fees rise to £3,375 for students starting in fall this year, but from 2012 universities will be able to charge up to £9,000 a year.

The other reason that applications could reach record levels this summer is that many among the 200,000 plus students who were left without a seat last year are likely to reapply this year. The government had funded an extra 10,000 places for undergraduates last year amid a dramatic increase in applications, and is expected to continue the same this year. However, these seats would be withdrawn in 2012.

Some, suggest that the increase in demand for university education may have seen some leveling off because of the rise in tuition, since the rate of increase as reported above is much lower than what was reported around the same time a year ago. (In January 2010, an increase of 23% over the previous year's applications had been reported.) In fact, application numbers for the month of December alone were down by over 17% and the overall 2.5% rise for the year was driven largely by increases in the months of September and November.

UCAS will release further figures on applications for 2011 on the 31st of January; this is expected to give a clearer picture as the UCAS deadline is the 15th of January. Universities however generally consider applications till end of June.