Summer is well and truly here, and the A-Level exams are over for another year. While students try to enjoy their summer holidays, at the back of their minds, the 18th August won’t be far away. It won’t be just the students and parents wondering what results day might hold for them but also Universities who have been preparing for the big day for months. Clearing has been described as the Black Friday of the Education sector. In fact, Clearing has already officially started.
Although student confidence was reported at being very high earlier in the year, somewhat too high in some opinions considering the re-adjustment that needs to take place, there are now mixed messages in the media. These are the first set of formal exams that this cohort have sat after two years of disrupted learning and The Student Room have reported in a recent poll that 48% of respondents are now thinking they might have missed the grades required for their place. UCAS has reported similar with 49% of advisors less confident about students getting their first choices this year. There is clearly still a great deal of uncertainly over what Results day & Clearing may have in store.
Most universities will have a set Clearing campaign in place that will most likely be well underway. Some might even be feeling optimistic, but it makes sense to have some contingency in place or back up options. Results from the International Baccalaureate (IB) were released on July 6 and did in fact drop as anticipated down to an average global score of 36.35 versus last year at 37.74 points. We will be expecting a similar trend for A-Levels this year with schools being told to prepare for lower grades.
It has also been reported that thousands of good A-Level students haven’t had the top university offers they might have expected in previous years. Competition for places at top institutions is higher than ever and it is understandable if universities have been cautious to not over recruit. Last year some were forced to take on more students than they wanted during the pandemic, so it is unsurprising if they are placing greater emphasis on their admission practices. There is also the demographic surge in the number of 18-years olds to make things ever harder. It is no longer a ‘buyers’ market. There is also the cost-of-living crisis that has begun to take centre stage, the true impact on higher education is still to be seen.
Looking at the data from UCAS, total Applicant numbers are pretty flat year on year with 683,700 applicants. The main shifts have been in 18 years olds which are up 5% and non-EU applicants up 9%. Unsurprisingly EU applicants are down 18% YoY and UK 21+ are down 14% (after the spikes we saw during the pandemic). It has also been reported that there has been more late cycle demand this year. If we compare this year to 2020, total applicants are up 5% and EU is down by a whopping 51.3%. Looking to the future, UCAS are projecting a million applicants by the year 2026, this is double the number we were seeing back in 2006. It is also fair to say that there is still capacity for further growth, with 18 years olds being the key driver.
Another positive shift is the demand from disadvantaged areas with record numbers applying for university this year. However, the gap between Males & Females is large (51.1% vs 37.6%). This gap has widened since 2014 when there was just a 10pp gap. Non-UK demand has increased by 9% YoY with China, India & Nigeria seeing continued growth. China is now the third biggest market for UK HE after both England & Scotland! Nigeria has stood out again with a huge 58% jump in applications. India has seen a 20% jump and China, 10%. According to a UCAS survey, more than 1 in 10 international students are considering HE abroad before their 11th birthday!
UCAS are expecting clearing volumes to be up 12% on 2021, at or beyond 2019 levels. The reduction in offer rates, particularly from higher tariff providers have influenced this prediction. However, that’s not to say these providers won’t be in Clearing, its just more likely to be subject specific.
According to the Guardian, nearly 30,000 courses are now available in clearing, across many courses and institutions. This gives students plenty of choice to those unplaced or who may use Clearing as an opportunity to rethink.
Its fair to say that as always, Clearing will be different this year. Getting a place at a desired university and in the most competitive areas will be higher than ever and there is likely to be some upset on the 18th August with the mis match in expectations.
If you want to discuss your Clearing plans or get a fresh angle on what you’re currently doing, then please get in touch for an informal chat at firstname.lastname@example.org