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Six sizzling stats from UCAS

Six sizzling stats from UCAS

By Mary Andrews

When I first started as a Career Coach, many of my clients were clear they wanted to go to university but were not sure what course might suit them. These days more and more of my teenage career direction clients question whether university is the best option. This is partly down to the cost – not just of tuition but also for accommodation and day-to-day expenses – and the growing attraction of apprenticeships. In addition, with COVID and the concerns about the quality of education universities can offer, wouldn’t you expect university applications to reduce? Or deferrals to increase?

Read on for six sizzling stats from UCAS in 2020 that might surprise you! (Health warning! UCAS is very good at publishing statistics. I have tried to give links to support each of my statements as it’s very easy to get lost in the plethora of data.)

1) Increase in number of students securing a university place starting Sept 2020

In 2019, 495,360 applicants secured a place at university through UCAS. In 2020, despite COVID, and the confusion around results, this figure rose to 515,650. University is therefore still very popular. This compares to 299,700 apprenticeship starts reported between August 2019 and June 2020.


2) The numbers that have deferred are not as high as you might expect

5.7% of those offered a place to start in September 2020 decided to defer to 2021. That’s only 0.56% higher than in 2019 when 5.14% chose to defer. This is good news for those applying to start in 2021 as competition from those already with a place is not as high as we might have expected given the uncertainty this year due to COVID.


3) Increase in number of applicants for the most competitive courses in 2021

The number of people applying for courses starting in autumn 2021 with an early application deadline of 15 October has increased by 12% from last year. This means that there have been 76,940 people applying to either Cambridge or Oxford Universities or other universities to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary courses.

Perhaps the pandemic has inspired more to study medicine (4,970 more compared to last year) meaning that competition for medicine is sharper than ever.


4) International students up, European applications down in 2020

44,300 international students were offered places to study at UK universities in 2020, up from 40,720 in 2019. The majority come from China, Hong Kong and India. International demand for UK universities remains very strong. Applications from EU students, however, have dropped slightly from 30,350 in 2019 to 29,630. Applicants from EU countries would probably have been expected to drop long-term although it’s surprising it started this year given that 2020 is the last year European applicants can benefit before the end of the transition period after the UK left the EU.


5) Most popular undergraduate subject is….

Business and Admin Studies! Or a related combo including Economics, Finance and Management. In their end of cycle report for 2019, UCAS reported that a record 72,135 people were accepted on Business and Admin Studies courses, an increase of 3.1% and the seventh consecutive year of increase. This has also been at the top of the list for the last few years now. My clients who have chosen to go down this route are attracted to the relatively high salaries they believe they might earn.

This compares to Health, Public Services and Care as being the most popular apprenticeships started between March and end of July 2020.


6) Least popular undergraduate subject is…

Non-European Languages, Literature and Related. In 2018/19, only 4,070 people were accepted to start in 2018. So, for anyone interested in studying a non-European language, it looks like you might be part of a small and hopefully elite group.


In conclusion, whatever the wider debates, you can’t argue with the statistics – university is still very popular.


Mary Andrews Portrait

Mary Andrews, MSc, IDC, MBPsS, PMABP, AssocISFCP is a qualified coach and career analyst.

With a background in HR and psychology, since 2011 she has been helping professionals and students find direction and thrive in their careers and life.

Make changes that stick. If you want to move from feeling unhappy and dissatisfied to content and fulfilled, contact me for a free without obligation conversation.