Enrolments at UK universities have climbed to a record high, Ucas figures show, with students holding vocational qualifications driving a significant portion of that growth.
The admissions service’s interim analysis of the 2015-16 application cycle shows that 511,730 students had been accepted into UK higher education four weeks after A-level results day, up 12,610 (2.5 per cent) on the equivalent point last year.
This has already surpassed last year’s total intake of 507,680 and, seeing that acceptances at this stage of the process usually represent about 98 per cent of the ultimate enrolment, this year’s final figure is likely to surpass 520,000.
England, where student number controls were lifted this year, is responsible for almost all of the growth. So far, 435,270 students have been accepted to English higher education providers, up 13,250 (3.1 per cent).
This is a higher figure than the increase in UK-wide acceptances because enrolment at Northern Ireland’s universities has slumped by 1,150 (10.4 per cent) year-on-year. Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University have been forced to reduce their student places because of multimillion-pound funding cuts imposed by the Stormont executive.
The total number of European Union undergraduates who have been accepted by UK universities through Ucas has increased by 2,800 (14 per cent).
Across the UK, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of students entering higher education holding vocational BTEC qualifications, the analysis shows.
Among UK and EU-domiciled students holding entry qualifications equivalent to A-level grades ABB or better, there were 46,330 with BTECs – up 3,430, or 8 per cent. The number of students in this category who had A levels was down by 150.
The analysis, published on 24 September, removes gap year students who have deferred entry to 2016-17 but includes those starting this year after being accepted for deferred entry last time around.