UCAS application rates indicate a strong demand for UK Higher Education

UCAS application rates indicate a strong demand for UK Higher Education


Back in November, the UCAS End of Cycle report showed that the number of higher education entries for 18-year olds was at an all-time high. It made us wonder what 2018 would bring.

With the first indicator just in, we’re now able to say that the positive outlook remains (although there are some notable exceptions – in the shape of nursing applications and mature students).

Let’s start with the bigger picture. Overall, there was a 0.9% decrease to 559,000 in the total number of people applying to higher education. This figure reflects a 2.5 per cent fall in the 18-year old population in the UK, and also a falling demand from 19 year olds and the 25+ age groups.

In England, application rates from 18 year olds increased by 0.4% to 37.4% – a record high. It also increased in Wales by 0.3% to 32%. Northern Ireland remained stable at 47.5 per cent, whilst Scotland fell 0.2% to 32.5% (NB there is a substantial section of provision not included in UCAS figures, which is mostly full-time education provided in further education colleges, which represents a ⅓ of young, undergraduate study in Scotland).

The largest group applying are the 18-year olds.  They make up almost 50% of all applications at this time. Let’s take a closer look at what they’re doing – starting with the gender difference in applications for these 18-year olds.

In England, both 18-year old women and men were more likely to apply than ever before. Across the whole of the UK, young women are more likely to apply than young men.

In England, young women are 36% more likely than young men to apply to higher education, a small increase from last year. In Scotland applications for young men were up, whilst the rate for young women applying was down meaning young Scottish women are now 56% more likely to apply than Scottish men (down on 2017 figures). Wales saw the difference in application rates in 2018 increase, with women being 48% more likely to apply. And in Northern Ireland, women are 40% more likely to apply than men (a slight increase on 2017).

As far as applications from disadvantages areas were concerned (measured by POLAR3 classification), we witnessed record highs for English (22.6%) and Northern Irish applicants (24.5%). Levels remained constant in Wales at 19.7%. The application rates for disadvantaged areas in Scotland are defined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation and this decreased in 2018, to 16.7%. This was the first decrease since 2008.

Turning to overseas students, how did they fare? Well, figures showed that EU applications remained strong, with the number of applicants up 3.4% to 43,510. Some believe this is down to the weaker pound, but of course the Government’s also confirmed that students starting this autumn will still benefit from existing financial support measures. So, this could have something to do with it. International applicants also increased to its highest ever number, by 11% to 58,450.

Nursing applications were also down by 13%. UCAS started reporting on these figures following a switch from NHS bursaries to tuition fees for nursing subjects at English universities and colleges in 2017.

UCAS’ Chief Executive, Clare Marchant, said: "Today’s figures show that UK higher education continues to be a highly popular choice for 18-year olds, and draws students of all ages from around the world to the UK. However, the application data also highlights continuing falls in demand from older students and to nursing courses in England. These are challenges for everyone involved in higher education to work on together. We must continually seek to evaluate what works well, and what doesn’t.

"It’s also important to remember that most universities and colleges are still open for applications, and students can still make application choices via UCAS until 30 June. We will be publishing a comprehensive picture of the full 2018 admissions cycle in December 2018."

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “While the strong demand from 18-year-olds is positive, the continuing drop in mature applicants must be addressed by government if we are going to meet future skills needs If the country is to thrive, particularly in the light of Brexit, it needs more, not fewer, skilled graduates.”

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

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Gordon Collins Date: Mar 15, 2018

It is similar to NHS funding figures. The government continually say that funding is at a record level, but ignore the fact that the demand is also at a record level and thus funding has in effect fallen. UCAS application figures may have gone up, but as universities are increasingly reliant on student fees so have the number of places and thus, with the exception of the very upper tier, and certain very popular courses, in many institutions it is bums on seats and not selection. If this were not true then why has there been a 40% increase in unconditional offers in the last year. This is a real scandal and demotivates the work of schools, skews choice, means pupils take the foot off their studies and means many get lower A level grades than they would have if they had not received an UO. Most publicised offers in prospectuses are a work of fiction, as they will drop by 1-3 grades in reality and are there to position the institution in the market place (you must not appear weaker than your competitors). There are so many unsatisfactory issue in HE that need the disinfectant of publicity urgently.