Record number of students set to start university amid rise in offers – Ucas

A record number of students are set to start university and college this autumn with applications and offers up, the admissions service has said.

Applications to the most selective universities have increased and offer-making from top institutions has risen from last year’s high, figures suggest.

As of June 30 – the final deadline to apply to up to five courses simultaneously – a total of 2,955,990 applications had been made through Ucas – a 6% rise on 2020 when there were 2,789,160 applications.

The figures show 1,998,690 offers have been made by universities and colleges, up 3% on last year when there were 1,942,270 offers at this point of the admissions cycle.

Among UK 18-year-olds, the number of applications to higher education has increased by 12% to 1,474,900, and the number of offers from universities and colleges is also up 10% to 1,147,460.

The number of applications to higher tariff universities has increased by 11% from 540,510 to 602,440, while the number of offers from these institutions has risen by 4% from 396,810 to 412,670.

Ucas is predicting that increases in applications and offer-making will see a record number of students starting university or college in the autumn.

It comes after the Education Secretary announced restrictions on face-to-face teaching in English universities are set to end this month.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Gavin Williamson told MPs that key restrictions on education and childcare settings will come to an end as the country moves towards Step 4 of the road map, expected on July 19.

The latest Department for Education (DfE) guidance says “there will be no requirement for social distancing” or face coverings within in-person teaching.

The move came after a number of universities said they plan to adopt a blended approach to learning in the autumn term, with a mix of in-person and online teaching for students.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said: “Today’s numbers show the clear demand for undergraduate study and apprenticeships is growing, rising significantly during the pandemic.

“Universities are ready to welcome more students onto courses this autumn and have worked hard to be flexible, enabling students to progress to their next level of study.

“Publishing new insight throughout the cycle increases transparency in admissions, and students, parents, teachers and universities can have confidence the process is once again as fair as possible, with results day on the horizon.

“Though not every student will find themselves in the position they had initially hoped for, they still have a wide range of options, including undergraduate courses and apprenticeships.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Despite the best efforts of schools and colleges, the learning of students will have been affected to a greatly varying extent, and the mental health and wellbeing of many young people will have been impacted by the pandemic.

“Universities will need to have in place robust pastoral and learning support for students who need this help in order to ensure they are all able to achieve their full potential in higher education.”

A Universities UK spokeswoman said: “Universities are well prepared to cope with admissions this summer, and they fully appreciate that this year’s school leavers have had a difficult time and that exam results season can be stressful.

“Admissions teams will be pulling out all the stops to support students, taking account of individual circumstances and doing whatever they can to ensure a smooth transition to university.”

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: “It is great to see more young people applying for places at universities and colleges and taking the next steps in their future towards securing exciting and rewarding careers, filling the skills gaps in our economy and help us build back better from the pandemic.”