Date Uploaded: 27/04/2016
It follows changes in the rules for a scheme for students with a significant ongoing illness, a mental health issue or a physical disability.
The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is aimed at students who have difficulty reaching their academic potential because their condition has disrupted their schooling.
This year, there were two key changes in the eligibility criteria, one of which was the introduction of a statement in which both the student and the school set out how a disability or illness has affected their education.
The new criteria also allow a GP, rather than a more costly consultant, to verify that a diagnosed condition, such as a blood disorder or mental health problem, affected a student's academic performance.
DARE has received 3,877 applications this year, the biggest increase in demand recorded among students with a mental health issue or an ongoing significant illness.
Colleges offer DARE places on the vast majority of courses but a student who meets the criteria is not guaranteed a place on reduced points.
Eligible applicants compete for reserved places, although many achieve the cut-off points for their course and do not need the safety net.
DARE applications are expected to rise again next year, when there is a further relaxation of the rules, which will make it more affordable for those with a specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, to produce a professional report to support their case.
Journalist: Katherine Donnelly