The number of students placed on undergraduate university courses in the UK as A-level results were released has fallen by 0.7 per cent year-on-year.
Ucas said that 408,960 applicants had been placed at the start of 15 August, down 2,900 compared with 2018 and falling further away from 2016’s high of 423,880.
The shift was driven by a dip of less than 1 per cent in the number of UK 18-year-olds securing places, although this came alongside a 1.9 per cent drop in the size of the school-leaver population.
This meant that 28.2 per cent of 18-year-olds were accepted through Ucas, a new record high, up from 27.7 per cent last year.
There was also a 6.7 per cent increase in the number of non-European Union students securing places, with this cohort now numbering 33,630. A 32 per cent leap in the number of students accepted from China lay behind much of this rise.
The number of EU students winning places held steady year-on-year, with 26,440 being accepted on to courses.
Ucas said that a record 17.3 per cent of 18-year-olds from the poorest backgrounds in England – 18,900 in total – secured places, another record high and up 0.8 percentage point on 2018. This slightly narrowed the “access gap” with the most privileged students, who were about two and a quarter times more likely to be placed, compared with nearly two and a half times last year.
Clearing is expected to be especially competitive this year, after Ucas changed the system to allow applicants to release themselves from their offers to try their hand in clearing instead. As results were announced, 7,960 students had already been placed via this route, include 3,690 who applied directly to clearing – up 6.3 per cent on last year.
Clare Marchant, Ucas’ chief executive, said students receiving their exam results “should be incredibly proud of their achievements”.
“The record proportions of disadvantaged students off to university, combined with the highest number of international students we’ve seen accepted at this point, is testament to students’ hard work and the attraction of our world-class universities and colleges,” Ms Marchant said.
Ms Marchant added that clearing “offers a new direction” for applicants. “Students with a confirmed place can reflect, and if they want to change their mind, they can release themselves online to enter clearing,” she said.
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