UCAS have been releasing applications figures every month since the early deadline closed in October 2011. Now that we’re approaching the summer, what can we say about the current state of play?
In May last year, nearly all applicants, some 92.4% of them, had already applied to university through UCAS. Assuming that the numbers are roughly the same as last year, and 92.4% of those who apply through UCAS for their full-time undergraduate places have already applied, we can say now with some certainty that around 53,000 fewer people have applied to go to university in 2012 compared to 2011.
That sounds like quite a lot. You can just about see the headlines now, but let’s put it into perspective. In 2010 and 2011, there was a strong increase in applicants. So much so that the media carried story after story on the hundreds of thousands of people who were going to miss out on a university place. Demographics played a part in this surge of interest. Up to 2010, the number of 18-year olds in the UK population (the biggest group of UCAS applicants) had been growing. In 2011, it started to decrease slowly, but many more people applied who might otherwise have waited a year or even a few years, possibly because they wanted to apply under the old fees regime.
To put the potential 53,000 drop in context, it is helpful to compare applicant numbers from 2009 with those in 2012. Even taking into consideration that there may be 53,000 fewer applicants this year, the actual number of people applying to higher education will still have increased by 1% – or by 6,700 more applicants – compared to 2009. All this is despite there being 49,000 fewer UK 18-year-olds (or a 6% decline) in the general population.
So what could this mean for applicants?
The black line shows the acceptance rate. The two blue triangles are the number of applicants in May, just published this morning on the UCAS website.
Our modelling shows what could happen to the acceptance rate for 2012 (far right), which indicates it may go up.
However, we will come back to these predictions in the winter, when UCAS publishes its end-of-year figures. Until then, a lot can still happen, as prospective students can still apply for their place at university or further education colleges for roughly a further 13 weeks.
In the meantime, it is important that everyone – whether studying full-time or part-time – has accurate information about the support packages for students that are now available. A summary of the information on fees and student support available across the UK is available in charts on the Universities UK website. You can also find plenty of information on the Independent Taskforce on Student finance website.
Next time our blog will explore how universities are preparing for the market, including the possible outcomes of the AAB + and core and margin policies.