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28th February 2022

Record numbers applying for university

Latest insights from UCAS

According to figures, there’s been a surge in university applications from UK 18-year-olds this year.

Last week, UCAS released their annual application data and in line with YoY trends, we have seen record numbers of school leavers applying for undergraduate places. It has also been a busy week with recent government news causing upset in the sector.

18-year-old application rates increased by 5% from 306,200 to 320,420 with jumps seen in most regions. Scotland and SW England saw slight dips. However, overall applications for full-time UG applications fell slightly by 1% to 610,720. The most noticeable drop came from mature students with applications down by 17% compared to 2021. This is in contrast to the height of the pandemic when this market jumped in one year by 24%.

2022 Cycle applicant figures

January deadline applicant % change by age:
UK domiciled applicants aged 21 and over

January deadline applicant by age:
UK domiciled 18 year olds

When looking at international numbers, record high application numbers continue from China with circa 29,000 this year. To put this in context, India is the second largest market with just over 8,660 this year, a number which has almost doubled in the last two years. As expected, the rates from the EU fell again with these students now having to pay international fees. According to Study.eu, The Netherlands, Germany & France are the top alternative destination choices. One market to stand out was Nigeria with a 47% increase YoY.

The evidence from UCAS is that more and more young people in the UK want to go to university and they understand that the journey should improve life outcomes. However, according to the DofE “Higher education is an investment, and we need to ensure that graduates are being rewarded for the money, time and effort they put into their studies with an educational experience and jobs that match their skills and help contribute to the economy.” The new proposals are based on setting a minimum entry requirement for students to be eligible for government backed loans for tuition and maintenance. University leaders are saying that this will effectively end hopes for many school leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is certainly not widening access or levelling up and will likely affect application numbers from these cohorts in the future.

28% of young people from the most disadvantaged areas have applied this year which is up from 17.8% nine years ago in 2013. After making such important headways it will be devastating to see these numbers slow or even dip.

One positive for students however is that in the short term, student fees will be frozen at £9,250 for another two years. This will effectively be a cut in university income with our current levels of inflation. On the flip side, the extension of student loan repayments will be extended from 30 to 40 years!

Top subjects continue to be those allied to Medicine, Business & Management, Social Sciences & Creatives. Those with the greatest growth YoY are Computing, Communications & Media, Humanities & Psychology. When looking at a drop in numbers YoY, education & teaching, social sciences, mathematics and physical sciences stand out.

Read our case study on how Birkbeck smashed recruitment targets with this award winning campaign or to discuss strategies for recruiting school leavers onto undergraduate programmes, get in touch at kim.mclellan@hunterlodge.co.uk



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