But picture across sector is mixed as some institutions report fall in interest
The majority of Wales’ universities recorded an increase in student numbers last year, official figures have shown.
Data compiled by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) allows for a comparison of successful applications to institutions over a two-year period.
Figures show Cardiff and Swansea universities – two of the biggest in Wales – accepted the most students for entry last September.
They also recorded some of the biggest rises, with numbers at Cardiff University going up 8% from 5,565 in 2012-13 to 6,035 in 2013-14. Acceptances at Swansea University jumped from 2,845 to 3,590 (+26%) during the same time period.
Free from the threat of enforced merger, Cardiff Metropolitan University accepted 2,895 students last year (up from 2,670 the year before) and Bangor University marginally increased its intake (2,395) by 40 students.
Wrexham’s Glyndwr University recorded Wales’ biggest percentage hike, equating to 32%, with 960 students accepted last year compared to the 730 winning places in 2012-13.
A change in the way full-time student places were allocated to universities impacted on the nation’s smaller institutions in 2012, with 52% of Wales’ total annual university intake “top-sliced” and reallocated.
Priority subjects including science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine and dentistry are ringfenced – though universities specialising in other areas have seen reductions in the number of students they are allowed by the university funding council to recruit. Glyndwr’s vice-chancellor Professor Michael Scott said the university’s surge in students was testament to the hard work of staff.
“The university is just five years old but it’s already hugely popular,” he said.
“We are in the process of restructuring the university and preparing for a new era; a period of development that will help shape its future.
“There is a long way to go but these positive Ucas figures show that people want to join a university that is new and vibrant, internationally significant and open to all. I would like to thank all of our staff for their hard work.”
Aberystwyth and the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David were among those suffering drops in student numbers. A spokesman for Higher Education Wales said the representative body was focusing more on latest applicant data – rather than most recent university acceptance figures.
He said: “The acceptance data is now over four months old, and as such, we are working on the latest applicant data from Ucas for 2014 entry.
“With regards to the January 2014 figures, we are delighted to have recorded the best application rate on record, with the 6% increase in students applying to study in Wales being the highest of the constituent nations in the UK.
“However, it is important to note the figures relate to applicants only, and enrolment figures will come out later this year.”