A record number of disadvantaged students have applied to start university or college this autumn, new figures from UCAS show today.
Posted Thu 17 February 2022 - 00:01

28% of young people from the most disadvantaged areas (quintile 1 using the POLAR4 measure) have applied – up from 17.8% nine years ago in 2013.  

The January deadline saw the overall number of UK 18 year olds applying increase by 5% (from 306,200 to 320,420), but mature applicants declined by 17% compared to 2021, when at the height of the pandemic, mature applications jumped in one year by 24%. Overall applications for full-time undergraduate applications for university and college courses that start this coming autumn fell slightly by 1% (610,720 in 2022 vs 616,360 2021).

Today’s figures also show record application rates for 18 year olds in three of the four nations; 44.1% in England, 37.5% in Wales and 52.6% in Northern Ireland, with an application rate of 35.4% in Scotland representing the second highest from last years’ record high.

Demand from China and India surged ahead, with the number of applicants from India almost doubling in the last two years.

Key international headlines from today’s application figures include:

  • Applications from China grew by 12.1% to 28,930 applicants.
  • Applications from India grew by 11% year-on-year to 8,660 applicants.
  • Nigeria, a priority country in the International Education Strategy, continues to be an emerging market showing huge growth, 47% up year-on-year at 2,380 from 1,620 in 2021.
  • Ireland continues to buck the downward trend in applications from the EU, with 5,100 applicants, up from 4,850 in 2021 and 3,850 in 2020.

2022 not only marks the return to exams, but also the graduation of the first cohort of T level students. Of the 1,300 students studying this qualification, 475 currently have a live application; a figure we expect to continue rising throughout the remainder of the cycle.

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive at UCAS, said: “The application is just one part of the discovery journey and the focus must now be on ensuring applicants have the best information and advice to transition into successful students or apprentices – whatever is right for them. The entire education sector will be continuing its high levels of support, particularly as students sit formal exams for the first time in three years.

“It will be critical to support students to progress to both full time undergraduate courses at university and college as well as degree and higher apprenticeship, as we know almost one fifth of UCAS applicants are pursing simultaneous applications.”  

“As we recover from the Covid pandemic and see the increased opening up of international travel, this year was always going to be pivotal for the international student market. Whilst applications have been very resilient throughout the pandemic, the robust demand from China, India and Hong Kong 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.  UCAS is delighted to launch today our new platform dedicated to international postgraduate students, Myriad by UCAS, which will support the International Education Strategy’s ambitions by providing an excellent user experience for students coming to the UK as well as championing new and emerging markets for universities and colleges’ recruitment activities.” 

View the 2022 cycle applicant figures – 26 January deadline


UCAS Press Office

NOTE: new temporary number 07881 029 025



Notes for editors

For most higher education courses, an application must have been submitted to UCAS by 18:00 on 26 January 2022, to guarantee it will receive equal consideration by universities and colleges for 2022 entry.

Applications for undergraduate courses can continue to be made until the end of June, provided universities and colleges have indicated there are places available. Additionally, applicants can apply direct to Clearing over the course of the summer.

From the 2022 cycle onwards, the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) subject classification and no longer be used, so subject data will be categorised by Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS). For this data release we will aggregate HECoS subject data using the Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) version 1.3.4 (details here: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/support/documentation/hecos/cah-about).

 As JACS subject group B7 had been used to identify nursing applications, applicants and acceptances, we are amending our method of reporting covering nursing and midwifery separately, based on courses having over 50% of their content allocated by providers as being:

  •  Nursing - in CAH2 (CAH02-04) nursing and midwifery, excluding CAH3 (CAH02-04-04) midwifery
  • Midwifery in CAH3  (CAH02-04-04) midwifery

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 of our customers — they're at the heart of everything we do.

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