40 percent of 18-year-olds applying to university this year

As many as two in five 18-year-olds in the UK are applying to university this year, according to the latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Ucas said that despite a decline in the UK’s total 18-year-old population due to demographic changes, eye-watering tuition fees, and soaring accommodation costs, the number of UK sixth form pupils applying to university this year rose to 275,300 and young people plan for their future.

UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant commented “Students are making the most of this year’s unprecedented opportunity to apply to university, as more applicants are expected to receive offers, the equality gap continues to narrow, and the UK’s 18-year-old population is expected to grow again in 2021”.

The rise in student applications is not just from British young people either, with the statistics showing a rise in mature British students over the age of 30 and foreign students from Indian and China. In total, there was a one per cent rise in total student undergraduate applications since 2019, with 568,330 people applying across all ages and from around the world.

Importantly, applications from young people from the poorest education backgrounds have risen quickest, shrinking the gap between them and those from more affluent areas. However, with richer students still more than twice as likely as those from poorer backgrounds to apply to university there is still a lot to do, from better outreach to more scholarships and bursaries.

All regions of the UK saw improvements in application numbers, but it is the capital that has become the first area where over half of sixth form students have applied to university. London contains both some of the wealthiest and poorest areas of the country, and improvements across the board in the capital are a welcome sign that universities are attracting people from all backgrounds.

The situation is improving in regards to social backgrounds, but gender is proving to be a growing problem, with the gap between the number of young women and young men applying to university has continued to grow. The figures show 46 per cent of 18-year-old women and 33 per cent of 18-year-old men applied to university this year.

On the international stage, applications to UK university from EU residents fell slightly to 43,000 thanks to the uncertainty around Brexit, but applications from other countries around the globe grew – particularly from India and China. Applications from China rose 34 per cent to over 22,000, while those from India rose 33 per cent to 6,230.

No-matter where the students are applying from, social sciences have maintained their popularity this year as the most subscribed courses. However, with the economy still struggling to find economic growth since the financial collapse of 2008, some will be pleased that applications for business and management degrees are on the rise, with the number of people applying for each up around five per cent over last year. Maybe these young people will be able to unlock the secret to future economic growth?

Photograph by TeroVesalainen

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