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UCAS Applicant Growth Remains Uneven

Posted by Richard Ward

The latest data from UCAS shows that a record 40.5% of all UK 18-year-olds applied to university or college, which represents the first time more than four out of ten have applied by the June deadline.

Despite a reduction in the population of 18-year-olds, 281,980 young people applied, up from 275,520 reported during the same period of 2019.

On a domicile basis, the number of applicants from outside the EU increased by 9.6% to 89,130, whilst for the EU (excluding UK) the total was down by 2.0%, to 49,650.

For the first time, over a quarter (25.4%) of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK applied to university or college by the 30th June deadline.

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Whilst the news of year-on-year growth in applicants, particularly those from outside the EU, will be welcomed by the sector, growth remains distorted.

For example, the number of applications from prospective students from outside the EU to 'higher tariff' institutions rose by 14.0% this year, compared to an increase of 6.9% at those deemed as lower tariff providers.

This distortion becomes even more apparent over the long-term. Between 2012-2020 the number of applications from non-EU domiciled students in a given year at higher tariff institutions increased by 69.4%, versus 25.0% for lower tariff institutions and 17.9% at medium tariff providers.

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Commenting on the figure, Clare Marchant, UCAS' Chief Executive, said: "At this moment, we're seeing an encouraging picture emerge out of national lockdown, with currently more applicants than last year keen to expand their mind, stretch themselves, and seize the opportunities that higher education can offer."

"Universities and colleges are setting out their ambitions to welcome students to their campuses this autumn, with many planning to blend high quality online learning with face-to-face teaching and support. Confidence is building for an autumn term that safely captures the essence of the academic year's traditional start as much as possible."

"We should celebrate seeing so many people keen to embark on a rewarding career in nursing. Inspirational stories throughout this pandemic have clearly sparked imaginations, with people from all walks of life applying, determined to help others at a time when our universities are making huge contributions to fighting coronavirus."

"Students will continue to need support over the summer to successfully transition onto their courses, including the record number of applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our popular weekly live Q&A sessions will cover a variety of topics, with experts on hand to help guide students, complementing the information and advice available from UCAS online, through social media, and over the phone."