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17th Jan 2019
The latest figures from UCAS indicate that nearly 522,000 students have been accepted to UK university so far this year, an increase of over 7,000 or 1.4% compared to the same period in 2015.
Acceptances to start university courses in England for the 2016-17 academic year are up by 1% to 439,380, in Northern Ireland by 5% to 10,410, in Scotland by 4% to 46,380 and in Wales by 3% to 25,350.
The number of students entering higher education and holding BTEC qualifications with higher grades was flat year-on-year, which is in contrast to typical annual increases of over 4,000 in recent years.
UCAS noted that this coincides with falls in the number of students taking vocational qualifications at Level 2 in 2014 following changes limiting which vocational qualifications could be included in school performance measures.
Despite a falling 18-year-old population, the number starting university in 2016-17 with A levels is similar to the past few years. Students with higher grades at A level declined by 1% to 88,120 and is now in line with figures seen two years ago.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the impact that Brexit may have on undergraduates coming from overseas, the number of students accepted into university from the EU, excluding the UK, increased year-on-year by 7.7% to 31,080. The rate of growth was however down on the previous year when numbers increased by over 10%.
Meanwhile those from outside the EU fell by 0.8% to 38,770, reversing the upward trend seen in the past few years.
UCAS Chief Executive Mary Curnock said of the figures: "While vocational qualifications such as BTEC have been important drivers of widening participation in recent years, I also welcome the stability of A level numbers this year, despite the slight shift to lower grade profiles. Students with even quite modest A levels have more choice of university courses and the evidence points to better retention and success once at university."
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