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Record Numbers of Early University Applications

Early applications to certain courses and universities in England have been higher than ever before UCAS has revealed. Despite increased tuition fees, applications to Oxford and Cambridge universities as well as dentistry, medicine and veterinary courses are up 2% on last year.

These universities and courses have an earlier deadline for students than all others, with a cut off point of 15th October for applications. That didn't stop almost 57,000 hopeful candidates from applying and UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook revealed she "remains optimistic about overall demand in the 2013 cycle".

Big Foreign Student Increases

Of the extra students, it is EU and international student numbers that have increased the most. Applications from Europe rose 1.8% on last year, whilst the international student applications increased a sizable 5.1%. This increase is in spite of the stricter visa laws that have been introduced over the past few years and shows quite how desirable the UK still is as a place of study.

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Huge Figure of Woman Carved

The north of England has a huge new attraction, after a giant figure of a woman appeared carved into the landscape near Northumberland. The 400m long artwork is called Northumberlandia, though is also known as ‘The Lady of The North', and is the brainchild of landscape sculptor Charles Jencks.

The figure took seven years to plan and a further two to build, and is said to be the largest landscape replica of the female body in history. It is made up of 1.5 million tonnes of rock, soil, stone and clay, all of which were by-products of a nearby mine, and together make the tallest point a massive 34m high.

It began life as part of the planning permission for the mine to be created on the site, and a spokesperson from the Banks Group mining company revealed:

"It cost £3m for us to create Northumberlandia. We wanted to give something back. When we end a project on a mining site we restore it. With this project we heard there was some local concern about a negative effect on tourism, so we decided to go one step further than usual and create a tourist attraction to leave as our legacy."

The sculpture will be officially opened today by Princess Anne, and members of the public and go and explore the piece from Wednesday onwards.

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Floods Hit England and Wales

Floods devastated parts of Wales over the weekend and more are expected, as heavy rain continues throughout Britain. After one of the wettest Mays on record, the bad weather has continued into June, with torrential rain causing a number of rivers to burst their banks on Friday and Saturday.

Weekend of Floods in Wales

Areas around Aberystwyth near the west coast of Wales received twice as much rain fall in 24 hours than normally falls in the whole month of June. This led to floods 5 foot deep in the local town of Ceredigion and the leader of the County Council, Ellen ap Gwynn, has revealed that an appeal will be launched to help those affected:

"I've personally witnessed the devastation left by this weekend's flooding. It's heartbreaking to see so many homes damaged by the flooding and to realise that many have lost prized personal possessions that cannot be replaced. However, I hope that by launching an appeal we can assist those affected to get back on their feet as soon as possible."

Meanwhile in nearby Pemmal 600 people were evacuated from their homes after a dam was on the verge of bursting. After a drain hole that normally releases pressure became blocked, emergency services had to work quickly to build a channel for the water to safely flow away.

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Euro 2012 Kicks-Off in Poland and Ukraine

Football fans across Europe are bursting with excitement, as Euro 2012 starts today. The international tournament is being held in Poland and Ukraine, and it is the former who will kick things off against Greece in Warsaw at 7.45pm (GMT) this evening.

The tournament starts with four groups of four teams, and there are some tasty looking groups. World champions and current holders of the European cup, Spain, are in the same group as Italy, whilst other favourites Germany and the Netherlands have been placed in a group alongside Portugal. After the teams have all played each other, two teams from each group will go through to the quarter-finals, when the straight knock-out part of the tournament begins.

Most people have one of Spain, Netherlands or Germany to win the tournament, though France and Italy are sure to provide strong competition. However, as Greece showed at Euro 2004, there is always room for a major upset at the Euros.

The Host Nations

Poland and Ukraine are hosting an international football tournament for the first time and have been preparing for five years. Six brand new stadiums have been built, the countries' infrastructure improved and transport links developed. Roughly half of the games will be played in Poland and the other half in Ukraine.

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A Very English Day: St. George and Shakespeare

Today, Monday 23rd April, is a special day for England in more way than one. Not only is it the day of the country's patron saint- St. George, but it also marks William Shakespeare's birthday. With national excitement already growing for the summer's Olympics, there are a number of events happening to commemorate Shakespeare and St. George as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

St George's Day

St. George is the patron saint of a number of different countries, including Russia, Bulgaria, Egypt, India, Greece and Portugal amongst many others. Each year on the 23rd April, they all celebrate St. George's Day. According to tradition, St. George was a Roman soldier in the third century AD. According to legend he killed a dragon to rescue a princess, and in doing so he converted the grateful town's inhabitants to Christians.

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