Ucas: disadvantaged students apply in record numbers

Number of students expected to start courses in UK higher education hits all-time high, after 44 per cent of all 18-year-olds applied

July 14, 2022
Source: iStock

Record numbers of students are expected to start courses in UK higher education in the next academic year, after nearly half of all 18-year-olds applied for a place.

Ucas has hailed an increase in the number of applications from students from disadvantaged neighbourhoods for entry in 2022-23, with 38,300 18-year-olds applying from the lowest participation areas, up 10 percentage points on 2013. 

Data from the admissions service’s latest applicant cycle include all those who applied before the 30 June deadline, the last date prospective undergraduates could apply for five different courses at the same time. 

The overall application rate for UK 18-year-olds stood at 44.1 per cent, with 683,650 applicants making 3,049,000 applications, 93,000 more than in 2021. 

Students starting courses in 2022-23 are the last cohort to go to university before fee changes are introduced in England, meaning taking a gap year could result in having to pay tens of thousands of pounds more over the course of their working lives. 

Despite many young people putting off going to university during the pandemic, there was not a significant rise in older students applying, with the number of 19- and 20-year-olds remaining static compared to 2021. 

The latest data also showed an increase in applications from overseas. Nearly 135,000 international students had applied by the deadline – an increase of 3 per cent since last year. Applications from China increased 10 per cent while those from India grew 20 per cent and there was a 58 per cent rise in applications from Nigeria.

The chief executive of Ucas, Clare Marchant, said it was “really encouraging” to see disadvantaged students apply in record numbers, despite the disruption seen in recent years because of the pandemic.

“Ucas’s analysis shows that universities and colleges are continuing to support the progression of these students with targeted offer-making that we predict will see record numbers of disadvantaged students start university and college in the autumn,” she added. 

The rise in applications had led to predictions that many students would miss out on places on the most competitive courses but Ms Marchant said Ucas believes “that record numbers of students will get their firm choice this year on results days”.

Sarah Stevens, director of policy at the Russell Group, said while it will be a competitive year for admissions, its members are “working hard to give as many people the opportunity to study with them as they can, while maintaining a high-quality experience for students”.

The Office for Students’ director for fair access and participation, John Blake, welcomed the increase in the rate of students from disadvantaged areas applying but cautioned that universities will have to work to “fill any knowledge gaps” among the cohort, whose education was severely disrupted by the pandemic. 


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