As part of its third release of the End of Cycle recruitment report for 2019, UCAS has published provider-level data. Examination of the data allows the levels and trends in recruitment by an individual provider to be compared with the sector and its peers. This information is likely to be of interest to governors and senior managers.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) each year publishes the End of Cycle report detailing the demand for, and acceptances to, undergraduate higher education in the United Kingdom (UK). Following conclusion of the recruitment cycle and spread over a number of months, the report is released in a number of parts.
Released on the 30 January 2020, the third release of the End of Cycle report contains provider-level data. This includes data on the applications and acceptances to each higher education provider in the UK recruiting through UCAS.
The full set of provider level data, including the use of unconditional offers is provided in the form of CSV files – ie. files containing a list of data - and can be downloaded.
Data on the applications and acceptances to universities and colleges is provided for each of the last 13 recruitment cycles (ie. 2006 to 2019). The data allows users to, for example, compare their level of applications and acceptances for an individual provider against both their peers and the sector.
Data used in the following analysis
The following analysis is derived from an analysis of the data for 130 universities over the last five recruitment cycles (ie. it does not include data, for example, on further education colleges or alternative providers).
The following analysis focuses on the number of accepted applicants.
The last five recruitment cycles
Using the end years of the last five recruitment cycles (ie. 2015 and 2019), the total number of accepted applicants rose by under 3%. Growth of acceptances was concentrated at the beginning of the period (ie. 2016 on 2015) and the end (ie. 2019 on 2018). The years between witnessing the number of acceptances remaining either static or falling.
Within the five-year period the total number of accepted applicants year-on-year shows marked fluctuation.
The 2019 recruitment cycle
Examining the data for 2019 and comparing the number of accepted applicants with the preceding year, shows 20 (ie. 15% of the total) providers increasing their number of acceptances by 10% or more; and 7 (5%) providers experiencing a reduction of 10% or more. Examples of providers achieving an increase of 10% or more in acceptances can be found in all mission groups.
Planned or unplanned strategies
When examining the number of acceptances by provider it is important to note that individual providers will have different recruitment strategies. Some will be seeking to grow their numbers, others to maintain their numbers at a given level, and others still may have elected to contract the student body. Equally, some providers may find that they are unable to realise their planned number of acceptances as a result of too few students applying and then accepting a place with them.
The role of quantitative data
Relying just on quantitative data it is generally not possible to distinguish with confidence the extent to which a change in the level or trend in the number acceptances by a provider represents a planned or unplanned strategy. Further, any changes in a given year may also reflect one-off factors impacting the provider in that year. Numerical data can be suggestive, and raises questions for further examination.
Changes in the acceptances by provider in the medium-term
Once again taking the last five recruitment cycles, it is possible to identify those providers achieving a significant increase or decrease in the number of acceptances. Using the end years of the last five recruitment cycles, 36 (27.7%) providers have grown by 10% or more, with 29 providers experiencing a 10% or more decline in acceptances. However, in most cases the pattern of recruitment by provider over the five-year period shows marked year-on year fluctuations.
Few providers have managed to maintain a high rate of growth in the number of accepted applicants for each of the last five recruitment cycles. Equally, where individual providers have experienced one or two poor years most have subsequently been able to improve the number of acceptances in subsequent years.
The UCAS End of Cycle provider data offers governors the opportunity to look at the pattern of applications and acceptances by provider. The provider data allows both an assessment of the historic and comparative performance of the provider in securing undergraduate applications and acceptances. While the data is historic, it nonetheless provides important intelligence on recruitment patterns, and, in some instances may prompt governors to raise further questions.
Does the governing body regularly consider the levels of applications and acceptances to the provider, including comparisons with a selected peer group?
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