Ucas: overall number of 2020 applicants is the highest in four years

Latest update shows the number of students applying to start university in 2020 has risen – and includes over a quarter (25.4%) of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds

The number of students applying to start university in 2020 has risen – including among disadvantaged groups and students from outside the EU – according to an update published today by Ucas.

The latest data shows current applicant numbers for the 2020 undergraduate cycle following last week’s 30 June application deadline.

“At this moment, we’re seeing an encouraging picture emerge out of national lockdown, with currently more applicants than last year keen to expand their mind, stretch themselves, and seize the opportunities that higher education can offer,” said Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant.

“Confidence is building for an autumn term that safely captures the essence of the academic year’s traditional start as much as possible.

“We should celebrate seeing so many people keen to embark on a rewarding career in nursing. Inspirational stories throughout this pandemic have clearly sparked imaginations, with people from all walks of life applying, determined to help others at a time when our universities are making huge contributions to fighting coronavirus.

“Students will continue to need support over the summer to successfully transition onto their courses, including the record number of applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our popular weekly live Q&A sessions will cover a variety of topics, with experts on hand to help guide students, complementing the information and advice available from UCAS online, through social media, and over the phone.”

The numbers:

  • The overall number of applicants is the highest for four years – and currently stands at 652,790
  • 514,020 people from across the UK have now applied through Ucas this year for a place on an undergraduate course – up 1.6% on the same point in 2019, and reversing a fall in UK applicants from earlier this year.
  • For the first time, more than four out of ten UK 18 year olds – a record 40.5% – have applied, up on last year’s 38.9%. This is despite a 1.5% dip in 18-year-olds in the population from last year. (2020 is projected to be the final year of a UK-wide decline in the overall number of 18-year-olds in the UK).
  • Over a quarter (25.4%) of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds (using the POLAR4 measure) across the UK have applied to higher education – another record.
  • There are 89,130 applicants from outside the EU – an increase of 10% – but the EU applicant total is currently 2% lower than last year, at 49,650.
  • The numbers of new applicants between the 15 January and 30 June application deadlines has increased by 10%, and there was also a 17% increase in new applicants between 23 March 2020 and 30 June 2020
  • Applicant numbers for nursing are up 15% year-on-year, to reach 58,550. The number of new nursing applicants between January and June was 63% higher than the same period last year (12,840 in 2020, compared to 7,880 in 2019).

Individuals recognise the many benefits that a university education brings for their life chances, career prospects and their future – Alistair Jarvis, UUK

In response to the Ucas update, Universities UK (UUK) chief executive Alistair Jarvis, said:

“It is very positive to see that there is a record number of UK 18-year-olds wanting to study at university this autumn. It shows that individuals recognise the many benefits that a university education brings for their life chances, career prospects and their future.

“It is particularly positive to see that more than one in four young people from disadvantaged areas have applied to university or college, and to see a growth in those wanting to study nursing courses. I am sure many will have been inspired by the stories we have seen during the pandemic of student nurses and university staff contributing to the national effort and supporting their local communities.

“Students can be confident that they will benefit from a high quality and positive experience university this autumn, with the vast majority of universities planning to deliver much teaching, student support and social activities in-person.”

Analysis published by Ucas two weeks ago also showed that more applicants have accepted an offer to start a course this autumn, with fewer students currently planning to defer than in 2019.


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