The number of offers for places in higher education has increased by 3% this year to its highest ever figure, new official statistics from Ucas show.
Figures released today (Thursday 8 July) show that universities and colleges made 1,998,690 offers – up 3% from last year.
The higher education admissions service said that as of 30 June 2021, the final date to apply to up to five courses simultaneously, 682,010 applicants made 2,955,990 applications. The total number of applicants was up 4%, and applications were up 6%
Of those applicants, nearly half (311,010) were 18-year-olds – and both the number of applicants and offers in this age group are 10% higher than last year.
The admissions service said interest in degree and higher apprenticeships also appeared to have risen. A search tool for these courses saw a record 1.35 million searches in the last 12 months, up 37% from 986,000 in 2020, which resulted in 44,000 extra, or 24% more, job applications than last year.
UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said the figures showed “clear demand for undergraduate study and apprenticeships is growing”. Universities had “worked hard to be flexible” this year to enable “students to progress to their next level of study”, she added.
“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,” she added.
It’s important that universities match increased student numbers with increased investment in their staff
– Dr Jo Grady, University and College Union
The news from Ucas was greeted by the Russell Group. “The increase in offers by higher tariff providers to UK 18 year olds, including those from the most deprived areas, reflects our universities’ commitment to be as fair and flexible as possible to ensure students are not disadvantaged in their applications by the changes in the awarding of A-levels and equivalent qualifications this year,” said Dr Hollie Chandler, the Russell Group’s head of policy (higher education).
The figures were welcomed by UCU general secretary Jo Grady, who said it was “an overwhelming vote of confidence in the high-quality teaching and support that university staff provide students”.
But Grady warned that “it’s important that universities match increased student numbers with increased investment in their staff”. “Ultimately, cuts impact on students as staff become increasingly stressed and burned out,” she added.