of course, this year’s admissions cycle is also only the second since student
number controls were removed in England, so it gives us the
first opportunity to identify if there are any initial trends emerging.
already had three big UCAS data releases on 2016 admissions cycle. These have covered
applicant numbers by domicile, age, sex, subject and country of provider at the
January, March and June deadlines, along with application rates for 18-year-olds. This
data tends to cover almost all (98%) 18-year-old applicants and even 86% of
mature applicants, so it provides a good idea of early trends before A level
results and confirmation and clearing in August.
main story is of applications holding up. Applicant numbers are around the
record level they hit last year, and despite a continuing and
relatively steep drop in the number of 18 year olds in the population, we
aren’t seeing a fall in the numbers of them applying for university. At the
June deadline the number of 18-year-olds from the UK applying for university
was the highest it’s ever been, with proportions of the same age group applying
also at record levels.
rates for 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas have also generally had much better growth this year than last
year, with a 5% increase in England compared to 3% in 2015. That’s good because
it suggests that the slow growth in entry rates for that group in 2015 may have
been a blip and that the 2016 entry rates will be more in line with what is
required to meet the Prime Minister’s 2020 goal.
This could contribute to a further drop in the numbers of mature
students, an issue which has been concerning the sector for some
time. It may be that older applicants are choosing to apply later, though it is
difficult to be sure because of changes in the age groups used by UCAS during
the 2015 cycle.
similar (though slightly smaller) drop in mature applicants at the June
deadline in the 2015 cycle became an increase in mature applicants and
acceptances by the end of the cycle. But regardless of changes in application
patterns, there still seem to be falls in the number of 20-year-olds applying
through UCAS in the past couple of years which can’t be easily explained.
summer, Universities UK will look at how institutions manage admissions,
including offer making and clearing, and how the subject mix in applications is
changing. We will also track clearing, including a visualisation of UCAS data on
application routes, the numbers accepted and where, and the subjects they’ve
been accepted for.