Image: Flickr / Science and Engineering - University of Hull

Rise in number of students accepting university offers to start in Autumn

There has been a rise in the number of students accepting their university offer to start in Autumn, while less have chosen to defer their place, compared to last year’s figures. 

The number of students deciding to delay their degree by one year has decreased by 0.7%, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has revealed. 

Despite coronavirus-induced concerns and plans to mitigate face-to-face interactions, 1.2% more students have confirmed their place for September.

The deadline for students to accept one of their offers for undergraduate study was 18 June. If candidates change their minds, they can defer or decline their offers at any stage. 

A London Economics survey from May concluded that 20% of students said they would postpone their year of study if they were not operating normally. 

This percentage translates to 120,000 students and a possible £760m in funding cuts for UK universities.

Many universities, including Warwick and Cambridge, have announced they will offer blended learning, which intends to commence in the next academic year. This is a combination of face-to-face and online lectures, depending on the class size. 

Clare Marchant, the UCAS chief executive, said: “Today’s numbers will also be welcome news for universities and colleges, and show their announcements on the blend of online and face-to-face learning most are planning to deliver have been building confidence ahead of the start of term.

“We are publishing these headline offer-acceptance statistics for the first time, to provide the clearest possible picture of students’ behaviour at this moment in the application cycle.”

Today’s numbers will also be welcome news for universities and colleges, and show their announcements on the blend of online and face-to-face learning most are planning to deliver have been building confidence ahead of the start of term

– Clare Marchant

Universities UK chief executive Alistair Jarvis said it was “very positive to see that the number of students planning to start university this autumn is on the rise, especially those from the most disadvantaged areas, and that the number choosing to defer has fallen from this time last year.

“University remains an excellent choice for students. Despite the disruption caused by Covid-19, students can expect a high-quality experience this autumn, with most universities planning to deliver teaching, student support and social activities in-person.”

European students’ acceptance rate has declined by 6% this year, meaning 2,160 fewer students will be arriving in the UK to study from the EU. Outside the EU, 12% more students have accepted their offers compared to this time last year. Overall, the proportional change, compared to the previous year, is a rise of 1%. 

Lucy Williams, who has accepted her offer to study Psychology at the University of the West of England, said: “I have taken a gap year to work and, although the experience may be different to what I initially expected, I have accepted my offer because I do not want to wait any longer to get my degree, as I think I would get used to working and never return to the prospect of university.” 

There has been a rise in deferrals for under-represented students this year – it has grown by 5.5%, which equates to 60 students.

It has been reported that several ministers, including Education Minister Gavin Williamson, believe that this year’s predicted grades system disadvantages BAME students. Disadvantaged students often suffer from lower predicted A-Level grades ordinarily, according to the Sutton Trust, and predicted grades have been criticised for being unreliable. 

A document has been considered in the Department for Education this month which outlines a variety of models that could be enforced to change the application process this year. 

University applications may be postponed to after A-Level results day and university and college terms could begin in January. Alternatively, exam results may be brought forward to July, and university terms could resume in mid-October.

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