• The number of students in higher education has risen steadily over the past 20 years.
Expansion has been most rapid in the past decade, with an increase of 253,000 between 1992 and 1998, according to the Office for National Statistics. This contrasts with a rise of 155,000 from 1982 to 1992.
Much of the expansion has been seen in vocational courses offered by the new universities, previously known as polytechnics.
Although the expansion was started under the previous government, it looks set to continue under Tony Blair.
Some concern was voiced late last year when figures showed higher drop-out rates at the new universities. But academics rejected the criticism, saying this points to their success in attracting students from diverse backgrounds.