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Most UK university applicants still setting sights on undergraduate study

Almost nine in 10 undergraduate applicants still intend to start university this autumn despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a survey from UCAS and YouthSight, 86% of A-level students were continuing with their application as planned.

5% said that they were planning on sitting their exams again in autumn.

According to a statement from UCAS: “Overall applicant behaviour in the 2020 cycle is currently consistent with previous cycles, with the expected number of new applicants each week, and no significant moves to change firm choices or providers, or to defer entry, so far.”

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the survey (60%) said they had already chosen their firm offer, with most also choosing a conditional offer dependent on the achievement of certain grades.

Meanwhile, just over a quarter (27%) said they had received all their offers, but were waiting to make a firm choice where deadlines have been extended.

Our joint research shows how attractive university remains, with students still aiming high and thinking about their futures. Having the right support is an issue for some though, especially those from BAME backgrounds

– Josephine Hansom

Just over half (51%) said they felt supported, but wanted more help in the application process, while 37% said they felt fully supported.

Universities’ own websites and the UCAS website were the main sources of information, used by 62% and 54% of the respondents respectively.

UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant: “Our immediate insight during these extraordinary circumstances shows students are keeping their sights on the exciting futures that lie ahead for them at university or college.

“With additional flexibility already introduced into this year’s application cycle, everyone should take the time they need to confidently make considered, fully thought through decisions.

“We are dynamically keeping students informed online, through social media platforms and personalised emails, plus our team are on hand for individual help.

“With fewer young people in the UK’s population this year, there will be plenty of places available and there is no need to rush, and risk making a rash decision.”

We are pleased to see that most applicants have not changed their mind about wanting to start university or college this autumn, and we would emphasise that there is no need for anybody to alter their plans

– Geoff Barton

Josephine Hansom, managing director of insight at YouthSight, said: “Our joint research shows how attractive university remains, with students still aiming high and thinking about their futures. Having the right support is an issue for some though, especially those from BAME backgrounds.

“The online information provided by UCAS and universities is rightly being prioritised by current applicants, though it cannot be underestimated the importance students place on the individual support they receive from those who know them best, especially in these trying times.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are pleased to see that most applicants have not changed their mind about wanting to start university or college this autumn, and we would emphasise that there is no need for anybody to alter their plans.

“The decision to cancel exams will have been extremely unsettling. But we can reassure students that everything possible is being done to ensure they are awarded grades as fairly and consistently as possible through a system of moderated assessment, and that they will be able to progress to the next stage of their education in the normal way.

“The grade they will be awarded this year will be just as valid as in any other year.”

The survey took place between 27 and 30 March, gathering responses from 500 UK undergraduate applicants. The responses were then weighted to be representative of the current young applicant population.

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