The number of UK 18-year-olds and international students applying for a place in higher education has slightly increased compared to last year.
Posted Thu 15 February 2024 - 00:01

UCAS data shows 316,850 UK 18-year-olds have applied to university or college this year – an increase of 0.7% from 2023 and the second highest on record.

This puts the application rate for UK 18-year-olds at 41.3%, down from 41.5% in 2023, but up from 38.2% in 2019.

The number of international students for undergraduate places has also increased by 0.7%, with 115,730 students applying by the January deadline.

The number of 18-year-old students from disadvantaged backgrounds (Polar 4 Quintile 1) has increased by 30% over the last ten years to 37,220, and up by 2% from last year. UCAS data also shows the number of these students applying to the most selective (high tariff) universities increased by 4.4% compared to last year (21,020 in 2023, up to 21,950 in 2024).

Other key points from today’s release include:

  • Overall, there have been 594,940 applicants, from all ages and domiciles, down 0.3% since 2023. Across the UK we have seen a 1% decline in applicants from England and Wales, -2% in Northern Ireland and a 2% increase in individuals applying from Scotland.
  • There has been continued demand for STEM courses. Since 2023, applications from all ages and all domiciles to Engineering and technology courses have seen 10% growth, and applications to both Mathematical sciences and computing have seen an increase of 7%.
  • Applications to nursing have decreased across all specialisms, but particularly Adult nursing and Mental health nursing. This fall in demand is being driven mainly by reductions in UK mature applicants which have dropped by 10% (-1,600) in the last year. Today’s figures represent circa 70% of total applicants to nursing for this cycle.
  • UK higher education remains attractive globally, with a 0.7% increase in international applicants. The highest increases are China (+3%, +910), Turkey (+37%, +710) and Canada (+14%, +340). There has been a decrease in applicants from Nigeria (-46%) and India (-4%).

Dr Jo Saxton, Chief Executive at UCAS: “It’s encouraging to see record high numbers of disadvantaged students applying for university, with more of these students aiming high for the most competitive courses. This reflects the efforts made by schools, universities and colleges to improve access to students from all backgrounds.

“While today’s data shows a decline in applications from mature students, which will be more keenly felt in some subjects such as nursing, we know that these applicants are more likely to apply later in the cycle.

“For any students who missed the deadline or are still undecided on their next steps into higher education, they can still apply until 30 June, and afterwards directly to Clearing, and plenty of choice still remains.

“There is a wealth of support, guidance and tips on the UCAS website to help anyone make informed choices about their futures.”

View the 31 January deadline application data in our interactive dashboard  


UCAS Press Office

07880 488 795 (monitored regularly)



UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is an independent charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education.

Our services support young people making post-18 choices, as well as mature learners, by providing information, advice, and guidance to inspire and facilitate educational progression to university, college, or a degree apprenticeship.

We manage almost three million applications, from around 700,000 people each year, for full-time undergraduate courses at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

We also provide a wide range of research, consultancy and advisory services to schools, colleges, careers services, professional bodies, and employers, including apprenticeships. We’re a successful and fast-growing organisation, which helps hundreds of thousands of people every year.

We're committed to delivering a first-class service to all our customers — they're at the heart of everything we do.

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