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What to expect from results day and university admissions this year

15 August 2017
Eleanor Jubb

Eleanor Jubb

Former Policy Manager
Universities UK

​It's August and the thoughts of hundreds of thousands of students, along with their parents and teachers, will be turning to university admissions. 

Of course, thousands of students taking other qualifications will have already received their results and found out about their university place, including all of those in Scotland. But the majority of students will find out their results on Thursday of this week (when A-level results are released) and it's this which has traditionally been the media focus.

​This year has seen the first fall in applicant numbers since 2012, but applicant numbers are still high (they're in between the equivalent figures for 2013 and 2014). Nearly 650,000 people applied by UCAS's 30 June deadline, and more will have applied directly to universities before and after that point. More than half of those applicants are aged 18 and under, and it's clear that university is still an attractive option for young people: the proportions of 18 year olds in England and Scotland applying for university are at their highest ever levels.

There are a variety of reasons behind the fall in applicants, but it does mean that this year's admissions cycle is likely to be watched more closely – particularly by those outside of the sector. One thing which is likely to be commented on is the number of EU applicants who've found a place. As the admissions cycle has progressed and the university sector has worked hard to ensure that students in Europe know they're still welcome here, we've seen the year on year fall in EU applicants reduce from 9% in October to 5% in June. In fact, applicants from some countries – including Portugal and Denmark – have actually increased.

The fall in applicants also means that the increased competition which has been a feature of undergraduate admissions since 2012 will continue. This is to the benefit of applicants and students. Competition has helped to give more applicants a greater choice of universities and courses: the proportion of applicants receiving offers from all five of the universities they applied to has increased from 21% in 2011 to over a third in 2016. And it’s meant universities have focused more resources on improving their applicant experience, including providing more support for applicants during their transition to becoming a student.​

Despite the fall in applicants, there will still be more of them than there are university places. Admissions staff will be working very hard over the coming week and a half to make it as easy as possible for applicants who haven't yet had their results to know where they are by 8am on A-level results day. We expect that more applicants will have received a place at their firm or insurance offer university than in previous years, but for those who haven't, Clearing offers a great opportunity to find the perfect course. Last year nearly 65,000 applicants did exactly that. The Exams Results Helpline have helpful advice on how to use Clearing here.​

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