Universities are experiencing a rise in the popularity of graduate courses as applicants try to boost their job prospects in the current recession.
A dramatic rise in applications for postgraduate degree courses as the recession bites is being reported by universities.
Postgraduate course applications traditionally rise in an economic downturn as people look to increase their qualifications in a more competitive employment market, or put off applying for jobs and study as they sit out the recession.
At Manchester University, which has seen a dramatic increase in applications from overseas students to do postgraduate courses, Dr Tim Westlake, director of student recruitment, said: "Our applications have risen dramatically on this time last year - up 14% from home and EU students, and 34% from international students."
Postgraduate taught course applications have soared - with one-year master's programmes particularly popular - while postgraduate research courses had remained static, he said.
Manchester is one of the largest recruiters of international students, with 9,500 applications for 2009, compared with 7,000 last year. Westlake added: "Demand from home and EU students is still strong and international student applications have risen dramatically.
"This is a year of uncertainty and for international students you have got to add the points-based system for immigration. We're still not completely clear at the moment as to what's required and whether there will be higher rejection rates for visas. But from a demand point of view, it looks like students are still thinking about coming here."
Postgraduate course applications to Birmingham University, another big postgraduate student recruiter have also risen. Roderick Smith, director of admissions, said: "We're up in all areas - home and EU by 8%, and overseas by 18% to 20% for all postgraduate courses. Obviously the UK is cheaper to come to for overseas applicants because of the weak pound.
"Undergraduate applicants are putting off going into the workplace and wanting to become better qualified to make them stand out," he added.
Students are applying in greater numbers for more vocational programmes such as science, engineering and business, Smith said.
For taught courses, Birmingham has seen additional applications from around 3,000 extra students and between 300 to 350 for research courses.
Postgraduate numbers are notoriously difficult to predict as applicants will apply to several different universities, accept offers from all of them, but only start at one.
Smith added: "It's difficult to estimate but generally more applications leads to more registrations, and numbers are certainly higher than last year and that was higher than the year before. It seems logical that it's to do with the recession."
Glasgow University has seen a 46% rise in postgraduate applications overall - from 5,000 last year to 7,345 in 2009 so far.
Taught postgraduate courses are proving more popular, with a 55% increase in 2009 - to 6,212 - compared with a 14% in postgraduate research courses.
For taught postgraduate courses, there has been a 127% increase in applications from home and EU students, and a 79% increase in international students.
Sheffield Hallam University has also seen a 51% increase in applications for postgraduate taught courses, with a 54% increase from overseas students.
Jacqui Ashmore, SHU's head of admissions, said: "I know other institutions are seeing similar increases. "We don't have firm evidence to suggest the increase is due to the downturn but it could well be the case and certainly reflects the pattern in previous recessions. It's a good time for universities.
"Postgraduate students tend to apply later in the year, because undergraduates need to find out their qualifications before they can progress. High numbers already in February would suggest people are applying who already have their degrees or have come from the job market."