The main story is one of stability in the sector with overall applications from UK applicants decreasing very slightly. This is being driven by continuing strength in applications from 18 year olds, which are at their highest ever levels across all the nations. This is despite a decrease in in the 18 year old population, which will only return to 2015 levels in 2024. Mature applicants for full-time undergraduate study have fallen for the second year in a row, though last year a similar decrease did not lead to a drop in acceptances.
UK applicants have remained broadly stable (down by 0.3% or 1,610 applicants) with a slight fall in the number of English applicants (down by 0.6%, or 2,430 applicants). Applicants from all other domiciles have risen, with particular growth from the EU (up by 5.9% or 2,500 applicants)
Applicant numbers: Total, UK, England
Applicant numbers: Non-EU, Scotland, EU, Wales, Northern Ireland
There has been an increase in overall applications (rather than applicants, which we don’t have the figures for; each applicant can make up to five applications) to Scottish and Welsh institutions (up 1.6% and 1.4% respectively) but a decrease in applications to Northern Irish institutions (which saw a 9.7% drop in acceptances in the 2015 cycle), which fell by 2.3%, and stability in applications to English institutions (+0.2%). English institution stability and Welsh institution growth is driven by an increase in EU applications (up 7% in England and 32% in Wales) and, in England’s case, an increase in non-EU applications (up by 1%). The fall in Northern Ireland is also influenced by EU applications, which are down by 7% compared to a fall in Northern Irish applicants of just 1%.
Despite a 2.2% fall in the number of UK 18 year olds (with a decrease seen in all four countries of UK), there has been a strong increase in the young and 18 year old application rates (which measure the proportion of a population which applies for full-time UG education through UCAS) in England (+3.4% ) and Wales (+4.2%), with rates in Scotland and Northern Ireland remaining static. The English application rate is up by 3.4% on 2015 and the Welsh rate is up by 4.2%.
Mature applicants as a whole are down by 2.6% (3,370 applicants). There was a fall in applicants aged 20-34, but an increase in applicants aged 35 and over. Mature applicants are less likely than young ones to apply by the January deadline, with only 82% of 2015’s applicants doing so.
Young and mature applicant numbers
18 year old application rate by country
Application rates from the most disadvantaged groups have also grown in England, Scotland and Wales, suggesting that the slowdown in these entry rates seen in 2015 may be temporary. The UK performance indicators for widening participation in 2014/15 are being published shortly and we will do some more detailed analysis of current trends when we have them.
The slight decline in absolute applicant numbers applying via UCAS’s January deadline was more pronounced amongst men than women (-0.6%, or 1,210 applicants, compared to -0.1%, or 410 applicants), with the gap between men and women applicants largest in the most disadvantaged groups. Subject choice plays a role here, as courses with the highest proportion of disadvantaged students also have some of the highest ratios of women to men. Prior attainment is also a factor, anIFS study last year suggested that once attainment was controlled for, boys are more likely than girls of the same background to go to university.