Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
STUDENT LIFE / MAY. 17, 2015
version 5, draft 5

Top 10 Most Popular Degree Courses (UK)

Which are the most popular degree courses in the UK? Look no further than UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) for the answer, which publishes a wealth of data illustrating a range of trends in education.

Most Popular Degrees

It has recently published the a report showing the number of applicants for each available degree course, which, of course, is an indicator of course popularity. In top position is Nursing, with 238,000 applications, but which other subjects make the grade of being amongst the most popular? Have a look at the table  below to find that out.

See Also: Top 10  Universities in the World

Course Number of applications
Nursing 238,000
Psychology 106,000
Law 103,000
Design studies 97,000
Pre-clinical medicine 85,000
Computer science 77,000
Management 71,000
Sport and exercise 67,000
Business 66,000
Social work 64,000

Data source: UCAS (via download)


  • Nursing is a good profession pursue if you’re interested in employment stability. When we compare the data with figures from the last decade (since 2007), the stand-out performer is nursing, which has witnessed the largest growth. Nursing applications were, according to UCAS, at 58,435 in 2007, increasing to 103,550 in 2008 and a whopping 237,000 in 2014.
  • We’re still searching for meaning it seems, or an understanding of life: psychology remains extremely popular, in second place.
  • The rise and rise of computer science and all things tech continues; applications for computer science reached 77,000 making it the third most popular subject.
  • STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in general are increasing in popularity, which is good news for the economy and those campaigning for greater uptake in these subjects. If you have a look at the full PDF document published by UCAS, you will note that the number of applicants for chemistry and biology, for example, has increased by an impressive 50 percent to roughly 30,000 applications each. Chemical, process and energy engineering courses have grown by over 100 percent, although the initial base for these subjects was significantly lower: in 2007, the number of applications was 8,450, climbing to over 19,000 in 2014. Mathematics increased from around 31,000 applications in 2007 to around 42,000 in 2014. And mechanical and general engineering has grown by more than 80 percent over the last ten years.
  • STEM’s gain is modern languages loss, however. According to UCAS’s table, modern languages and associated studies have gone down in the number of applications by more than 20 percent to roughly 26,000. This may be explained by the move away from full degrees to shorter courses being available.
  • Arts, humanities, theology and religion, have also decreased in number of applications as applicants pursue STEM/more vocationally oriented subjects. 

According to UCAS, 512,000 (over half a million) applicants secured university places in 2014, up by more than 3 percent on the previous year. Still, UCAS believes that demand would be higher were it not for the impact of tuition fees. The overall acceptance ratio remains constant at around 73 per cent, figures which represent a significant increase over the last ten years.

See Also: Ucas Believes Record Number of Universities Have Places Confirmed.

Are you influenced by the popularity of a degree course? What does the popularity of a course suggest to you?  Share your comments in the box below...

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