Applications to UK universities have increased by 4% with more than a third (35%) of 18-year-olds in England applying to universities this year. In total, 580,000 people have applied to start undergraduate courses at universities in the UK for the next academic year, compared with 558,820 last year. The figures include people applying from overseas as well as from within the UK, but a similar surge was evident in both cases.
Interestingly, the numbers have yet to climb to the levels seen the year before tuition fees were trebled to a maximum of £9,000. By the same point in 2011, the year before the fee hike, 583,530 people had applied.
Female Applicants Outnumber their Male Counterparts
The figures provided by UCAS reveal that men are still far less likely to apply to higher education than women. About 87,000 more women - three times more than men - applied to university than men. UCAS chief, Ms Curnock Cook argued that "Young men are becoming a disadvantaged group in terms of going to university and this underperformance needs urgent focus across the education sector".
UCAS has also reported that young people from disadvantaged areas in England are almost twice as likely to apply as they were in 2004. Paul Clark from Universities UK stated that "Universities have been very successful in attracting disadvantaged students and 2013 saw the highest ever entry rates across the UK for this group".
More Places, Lower Grades
Last autumn, a record number of almost 496,000 students began full time undergraduate courses, according to the UCAS admissions service. The UCAS annual figures also indicate high levels of acceptances, with 85% of people who applied in England finding a university place.
Acceptances have increased from all UK countries and all UK age groups.UK 18 year old acceptances (219,300, up 3.4%) are higher than any other cycle, as are acceptances from England (367,900, up 7.3%) and Northern Ireland (14,600, up 9.6 %). Acceptances have also increased from the EU (24,500, up 5.5 %) and from countries outside the EU (37,500, up 5.8 %).
The most selective universities – those considered as "high tariff" universities - accepted 10,000 more applicants than in 2012, an increase of almost 10%. These top universities were offering more places to students with lower grades - with 17% of such places in England going to students not achieving ABB grades at A-level or their equivalent.
The report also highlights the unreliability of predicted grades. Among students predicted to get ABB grades at A-level only 30% eventually achieved those grades.
The results clearly show an astonishingly persistent increase in demand for higher education from all demographic backgrounds and for institutions across the spectrum in the UK. However, young men are becoming a disadvantaged cohort in terms of attending university and this trend should be urgently addressed by education institutions and policymakers.