uk universities
Image: Tulane Public Relations / Wikimedia Commons

Number of students entering UK universities falls for second year in a row

The number of students entering undergraduate courses across universities in the UK has fallen by 0.7% annually since 2016, while the number of students accepted from disadvantaged backgrounds or China have seen prominent increases.

According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), 408,960 applicants were granted a place this Results Day, a decrease from 411,860 in 2018 and also dropping further from the 423,880 high in 2016.

This has been attributed to a fall of less than 1% in the number of 18-year-olds in the UK being accepted into university, which came alongside a 1.9% drop in the population of school-leavers.

As a result, figures reflect that 28.2% of 18-year-olds were accepted, an increase from 27.7% last year.

There was also a 6.7% increase in the number of non-EU applicants, who secured 26,440 places in total. This is succeeded by the number of students accepted into university from China, which saw a 32% increase.

Meanwhile, the number of EU students being accepted onto courses has broadly remained the same at around 26,440.

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

– Clare Marchant

Furthermore, 17.3% of 18-year-olds from the poorest backgrounds in England have secured places, making a record high with 18,900 places.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ chief executive, announced that students receiving their A-level 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.

Times Higher Education (THE) theorised that a change in UCAS’ system allowing applicants to release themselves from their offers resulted in Clearing being particularly competitive this year. 

Prior to results being released, 7,960 students were already in the Clearing system, 3,690 of whom had applied to universities directly through Clearing.

Ms Marchant stated that Clearing “offers a new direction” for applicants, who “with a confirmed place can reflect, and if they want to change their mind (…) can release themselves online to enter clearing”.

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