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Rising demand for places at UK universities

20 May 2022

The number of students applying to universities in the UK has risen over the past few years, and this figure is not expected to decrease any time soon.

The demand for places at UK universities is continuing to increase at a rapid rate. UCAS predicts the number of applicants to increase from around 700,000 to more than a million a year by 2026.

Comparing statistics from the 26th January application deadline to previous years, 320,000 sixth formers have applied for university places so far, compared with 306,000 in 2021 and almost 50,000 more than in January 2019. Encouragingly, the number of applicants from disadvantaged areas has also continued to rise, with 28% of 18-year-olds from areas with the lowest educational attainment applying, compared with just under 18% in 2013.

A Russell Group spokesperson said: "A high-quality university course helps students learn the skills that are crucial to both their future success and the wider economy more generally. It’s good to see demand for those skills continues to be robust with an increase in applications for undergraduate courses to higher-tariff institutions.”

Similarly, the number of applicants from outside the EU has continued to rise and is currently up 5% to 90,590. The most significant increases come from India, China, Canada and Nigeria. On the other hand, EU applicants have continued to fall as a result of Brexit, with figures down 19% on last year.

the robust demand from China, India and Hong Kong, as well as demand from a number of new and emerging global regions, shows the enduring appeal of our world-class universities, with our recent report indicating that nearly 9 in 10 still view the UK as an attractive place to study.

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive at UCAS, is positive about the positioning of the UK as a leading provider of higher education:

Whilst applications have been very resilient throughout the pandemic, the robust demand from China, India and Hong Kong, as well as demand from a number of new and emerging global regions, shows the enduring appeal of our world-class universities, with our recent report indicating that nearly 9 in 10 still view the UK as an attractive place to study. We are expecting, as part of the journey to a projected million applications by 2026, the number of international students to grow by two-thirds.”

Alongside higher education, the UK is also expanding options for young people looking to undertake an apprenticeship or training instead of a degree. Most recently, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an apprenticeship incentive scheme for employers. However, the rising trend in the number of university applicants proves that young people are still regarding university as a good investment for their future.

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