Record number of school-leavers win UK university places

Total intake down 2 per cent year-on-year, as entry gap between richest and poorest grows

九月 7, 2021
Source: iStock

The percentage of UK 18-year-olds accepted to university has reached a record high this year, according to the latest Ucas figures.

Data from the admissions service show that 37.9 per cent of the UK’s 18-year-old population had been accepted onto university courses 28 days after A-level results day, compared with last year’s record high of 36.4 per cent. In 2019, the 18-year-old entry rate was 33.8 per cent.

In total, 507,610 students have been accepted to a UK university, down less than 2 per cent from last year.

The analysis showed that 15 per cent more UK 18-year-olds got places on their first-choice course than last year, up to 228,470 from 197,900 in 2021 and 182,140 in 2019. The rise comes after a massive increase in the number of students achieving higher A-level grades this year, the admissions service said. This year the number of As and A*s awarded grew by 6.3 percentage points.

The spike in students being placed on their preferred course has meant that the number of 18-year-olds placed via clearing dropped by a third – 34 per cent – this year compared with 2020.

Overall, 36,430 applicants were placed via clearing this year, the lowest levels for more than a decade.

Ucas also said that this year record numbers of 18-year-olds were accepted from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK, exceeding 30,000 students for the first time.

The number of 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds accepted grew by 7 per cent to 30,260. However, 18-year-olds from the most advantaged backgrounds accepted grew by 8 per cent – more than any other group – to 89,670.

The data showed that 23.5 per cent of the UK’s most disadvantaged 18-year-olds were accepted into university this year, up from 22.6 per cent. However, at the same time the proportion of the most advantaged 18-year-olds entering university grew from 50.7 per cent to 52.6 per cent, meaning that the gap in entry rates between the most and least advantaged is still growing.

Overall, higher tariff institutions increased their numbers by 3 per cent, and lower tariff institutions decrease theirs by 4 per cent. However, all institutions boosted their 18-year-old numbers, high tariff institutions by 12 per cent and lower tariff institutions by 3 per cent.

The data also confirmed the massive drop in European Union students this year: down 56 per cent to 12,920. Non-EU international students were up by 5 per cent to 46,610.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said that “students’ hard work throughout the year in incredibly trying circumstances has been rightly rewarded with more of them achieving the grades to secure their first choice of course”.

“More students placed at their first choice has led to a slower clearing than we’ve seen in recent years,” she said. “We know that some students, particularly mature applicants looking to study at their local university or college, often make a late decision through clearing, so we expect numbers to rise before the end of the cycle, as places remain available on over 20,000 courses.”



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