38% of 18-year-olds in UK to start a full-time degree

New Ucas analysis shows record levels of young people accepted into university

Record levels of young people have been accepted into university this year, according to new Ucas analysis.

272,500 UK 18-year-olds have been accepted into university or college in the 2021 admissions cycle as of this morning – a rise of 7% from last year.

This equates to 37.9% of all UK 18-year-olds – last year’s figure was 36.4%.

More young people (228,470, up 15%) have been confirmed onto their first choice of course this year as a result of achieving higher grades this year. As a result, a third (34%) fewer UK 18-year-olds have used Clearing to secure a place at a higher education provider – 24,110, down from 36,770 in 2020. Clearing remains open for new applicants until 21 September and closes for everyone on 19 October.

“Students’ hard work throughout the year in incredibly trying circumstances has been rightly rewarded with more of them achieving the grades to secure their first choice of course,” said Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant.

“More students placed at their first choice has led to a slower Clearing than we’ve seen in recent years. We know that some students, particularly mature applicants looking to study at their local university or college, often make a late decision through Clearing, so we expect numbers to rise before the end of the cycle, as places remain available on over 20,000 courses.

“There is still time for anyone without firm plans to make an informed decision about their future. Ucas is here to support anyone still considering their options, including apprenticeships, through our trusted, engaging, and timely information and advice, such as our CareerFinder service.”

The number of 18-year-olds accepted from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK (POLAR4 quintile 1) has exceeded 30,000 (30,260) for the first time, equivalent to 23.5% of that population. This is an increase from 22.6% (and 28,200 accepted students) in 2020.

The analysis also shows that number of students from EU countries has dropped by 56%, while the number of students from non-EU countries has risen by 5%. Yesterday, the chief executive of Universities UK International (UUKi) warned urgent action was needed “to recover our position in a range of countries where the UK used to be a first or second-choice destination, but isn’t any more”.

In total, 507,610 students (of all ages and from all countries) have been accepted, down less than 2% from last year.

Ucas will publish its end of cycle reporting over the winter.

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