A record 541,240 students were accepted onto undergraduate courses this year as high offer rates, increased consideration of those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and improvements to Clearing give applicants more choice than ever before.

UCAS’ 2019 End of Cycle Report published today (28 Nov) reveals 97.8% of UK 18 year olds received an offer for a place after applying through the main scheme, which is a new high, and up 0.2 percentage points on 2018.

The ongoing decline of 18 year olds in the population increasing competition between universities and colleges is likely to be the biggest influencing factor in increased offer rates, which have risen across almost all subjects.

The equality gap is still pronounced, with the most advantaged students (POLAR4 Q5) around 2.3 times more likely to enter higher education. However, the most disadvantaged students (POLAR4 Q1) are 61% more likely to enter university now than they were ten years ago, with universities and colleges increasing their outreach activities and use of contextualised admissions.

The number of people accepted through Clearing this year rose nearly 10%, and exceeded 70,000 for the first time (73,320) – with UK 18 year olds accounting for nearly half of those accepted through the post-qualifications admissions route. 28,030 people used UCAS’ new online self-release capability, with almost 99% of those who reapplied successfully placed through Clearing.

For the first time as part of our End of Cycle reporting, ‘Realising ambition’ provides deeper insight into the 2019 cycle and confirms that the current 2020 cycle is an ideal time to be applying for higher education, with the overall UK 18 year old population falling to its lowest level for the foreseeable future. It is published with four chapters of the End of Cycle Report which summarise the 2019 cycle’s headline numbers, analyse nursing applicants, breakdown Clearing, and look at offer-making.

Other highlights from the first chapters published today show:

  • a record 34.1% entry rate for UK 18 year olds
  • 73.6% of UK 18 year old accepted applicants were placed at their first choice 
  • 15% growth in UK students aged 35+ accepted
  • over 45,000 applicants from outside the EU were accepted for the first time ever 
  • 19,640 people were placed after applying directly into Clearing
  • UK 18 year olds predicted AAB – ABB at A level had the highest offer rate (87.5%)
  • nursing applicants rose by 6.7% to 54,225, with a record 30,390 acceptances

Detailed analysis can be found in the chapters published today, with all statistics included in our new interactive dashboard, allowing users to visualise and tailor the reporting to their own specifications.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said:

"Today’s report shows the unprecedented opportunity for anyone currently thinking of applying to university to be ambitious with their choices. The trends identified through our analysis are very likely to continue into this year, with universities, colleges, and schools continuing to support students from a variety of backgrounds.

"Alongside the record entry rate of 34.1% for young people, the growth in mature students is also good news, with more people choosing to return to, and enjoy the many benefits of education. With record numbers of students using Clearing, and over 28,000 people using UCAS’ new online self-release capability, there’s choice available for students throughout the whole cycle.

"The chance to study your chosen subject in depth for three or four years develops your character and understanding of the world, while also providing the knowledge and skills valued by employers. While there are many factors involved, government data shows that on average, graduates continue to earn more than £10,000 a year more than non-graduates, with higher employment rates too.

"Studying for a degree isn’t for everyone though, and through the UCAS Hub  current and future applicants are getting more relevant and personalised information than ever on all their options, including apprenticeship routes, in one place."

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is an independent charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. We manage almost three million applications, from around 700,000 people each year, for full-time undergraduate courses at over 370 universities and colleges across the UK.

Today is the first publication date of the 2019 End of Cycle Report. Further analysis will be published on Tuesday 17 December and Thursday 30 January 2020.

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