UCAS has published data on applicant figures by the 26 January 2022 deadline, presenting the figures in an interactive dashboard. The release includes reports covering different characteristics of applicants (including domicile, age, gender, Indices of Multiple Deprivation and POLAR4 quintile) and provision type (including country of provider). In addition to the interactive tool UCAS provides CSV files containing the data reported.
- The January deadline saw the overall number of UK 18 year olds applying increase by 5% to 320,420, setting a new record. However, overall applications for full-time undergraduate applications fell slightly by 1% to 610,720.
- There were record application rates for 18 year olds in three of the four nations: 44.1% in England; 37.5% in Wales; and 52.6% in Northern Ireland; with an application rate of 35.4% in Scotland representing the second highest from last years’ record high.
- The number of mature applicants declined by 17% compared to 2021, when at the height of the pandemic, mature applications jumped in one year by 24%.
- A record 28% of young people from the most disadvantaged areas (quintile 1 using the POLAR4 measure) have applied – up from 17.8% nine years ago in 2013.
- The total number of international applicants so far in 2022 is 111,410, broadly similar to 2021 (111,630). The number of applicants from outside the EU continue to rise and are currently up 5% to 90,590. But there has been a 19% fall in EU applicants, which currently stands at 20,820.
- The rise in non-EU applicants includes continuing growth in interest from China (up 12%) and India (up 11% year-on-year, with numbers almost doubling in the last two years). There were also marked increases in applicants from Nigeria (a rise of 47%), Canada (up 17%), Singapore (7% higher than last year), and Malaysia (up 6%). Applicant numbers fell from the USA (down 21%) and Hong Kong (a 6% drop).
- The gap in the number of applications for places at higher and medium/lower entry tariff institutions continues to grow, with higher tariff institutions receiving almost 1.2 million applications in 2022, compared with just over 808,000 for medium tariff and 775,000 for lower tariff.
- Just over 8% of all UK applicants were Black students, setting a new record and representing a continuing upward trend. The number of UK Asian students also continued to rise to a new high, representing over 14% of applicants; while the number of White applicants dropped by 3.6%.
- Subjects seeing the biggest increases in applicants include computing (up 13%), communications and media, and humanities and liberal arts (both up 10%), and medicine and dentistry (a 7% rise); while the number of applicants for social sciences fell by 3%, and subjects allied to medicine and education and teaching have each seen numbers fall by 2%.
- UCAS has launched a new platform dedicated to international postgraduate students. Myriad by UCAS, available in-browser and as an app, aims to provide support and guidance on courses, accommodation, scholarships and funding, and local jobs. Over 90% of UK universities and colleges are listed on Myriad, and it is already being used by students in 150 countries.
Implications for Governance:
After two years of uncertainty over the impact on demand for HE of the pandemic, Brexit, industrial action, and changes in government policy, sector leaders may draw some comfort from these latest UCAS figures, which show largely positive trends.
However, governors will no doubt wish to see the overall picture in the context of how their own institution is affected by the short and longer term shifts in applicant and application numbers. The data provides the first opportunity to see how student number forecasts for this year, upon which financial projections are based, may be matching up with reality.
The widening gap in applications between higher and medium/lower tariff institutions may be a concern for governors of institutions in the latter categories. Over the past two years this has partly been fuelled by A level grade inflation due to teacher assessments replacing exams during the pandemic, so it will be interesting to see whether a return to the pre-pandemic system over the next two years will even out this effect. In the meantime to stay competitive medium/lower tariff institutions may need to more strongly promote courses that fit well with the government’s policy focus on higher level vocational skills and training and routes into professional jobs. Those that offer degree apprenticeships may also be encouraged by news from UCAS that demand for these programmes appears to be very strong.
Governors may be interested to note too how their own institution may be affected by changes in demand for particular subject groups. While the biggest winner this year appears to be computing, many institutions will be encouraged to see a growing number of students applying to study humanities and liberal arts, and communications and media, despite unsupportive policy decisions and negative rhetoric from ministers aimed at such courses.
The data appears to also show positive trends on widening participation, which is encouraging in a year in which this area is likely to be scrutinised even more closely, with the appointment of a new Director for Fair Access and Participation. The one piece of negative news here is the 17% drop in mature student applicants, but as UCAS points out, that follows a year in which numbers jumped by 24%.
Finally governors may wish to consider how their own institution may be affected by changes in the international market. The data appears to support calls for greater diversification in global recruitment, with India in particular showing great promise. Certainly those institutions which relied most on strong recruitment from the EU will be looking for new markets to make up for the big drop off in EU applicants.
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