Following UCAS’ projection of one million applicants for higher education by 2030, leading education and public policy experts have today outlined how they would tackle the coming challenge – their options include building more universities in education ‘cold spots’, expanding existing universities and increasing degree apprenticeships.
Today’s key contributions to UCAS’ national debate on the projected Journey to a Million include:
- ‘A starting assumption could be that every major town should have some form of higher education institution.’ – Rt Hon. Lord Willetts FRS, President of the Resolution Foundation and Former Minister for Universities and Science
- The HE system is ‘too inflexible and will need to adapt to a future student population that may be older, lacking conventional entry qualifications and needing to combine study with work.’ – Dr Stephen Coulter, Head of Industrial Strategy, Skills and Sustainability and James Scales, Policy Lead, Skills and Future of Work, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
- Online learning can meet the demands of ‘learners who cannot commit to traditional on-campus in-country study due to existing careers, family commitments or financial constraints.’ – Dr Anthony Manning, Director and Dean of Global Lifelong Learning, University of Kent
Competition for places in higher education is likely to intensify as more students seek to secure university courses or apprenticeships.
In the last year, UCAS has seen a decline in the offer rate to students, particularly at the most competitive courses, and without a subsequent increase in the supply of opportunities, this is likely to continue.
This may require students and teachers to think differently about post-secondary choices. Contributors to UCAS’ debate about the Journey to a Million have said today:
- University applicants ‘will need to also determine how best to use the choices at their disposal. Those who opt to cluster all their options around a narrow range of highly competitive and selective courses and universities are unlikely to receive many offers.’ – Mike Nicholson, Director of Recruitment, Admissions and Participation, University of Cambridge
- There needs to be a ‘genuine level playing field where there is no judgement over whether an A Level or a T Level, or another vocational course is the better qualification, but rather, which is the right qualification for the individual.’ – Dr Jo Saxton, Chief Regulator, Chief regulator, Office for Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual)
- ‘The million applicants in 2030 will be likely to be studying in an even greater diversity of provision. Those institutions who will flourish will be those who are confident in their mission and respond to emerging expectations with a distinct and targeted offer.’ – Professor Nicola Dandridge, Professor of Higher Education Policy, University of Bristol
Last month UCAS, in partnership with Knight Frank and Unite Students, kickstarted a its national debate on access to higher education - highlighting five key challenges and opportunities created by increased demand during this potential Journey to a Million.
Sander Kristel, Chief Operating Officer at UCAS, said: ‘Student choice and opportunity in the last decade has been shaped by a decline in the 18-year-old population, which has created a buyer’s market. We see an anticipated 30% increase in demand for higher education and to capitalise on this once-in-a-generation opportunity, we need to see an expansion of existing, and creation of new opportunities across post-secondary education.’
‘As part of our Journey to a Million debate, we have today presented a range of new ideas and options from a range of sector leaders and a key thread of their contributions is not only the need for expansion of opportunities, but also the need for better career guidance.’
Richard Smith, CEO, Unite Students said: ‘Ensuring access to Higher Education is hugely important – particularly in light of the projected rise in demand by the end of the decade. In partnership with UCAS and Knight Frank, we’re committed to driving this conversation. While solutions won’t necessarily be easy to come by, we relish the opportunity to debate the ideas put forward, be it the creation of new universities, the expansion of existing ones or a broadening of other opportunities, such as apprenticeships. As the UK’s largest provider of student accommodation, we are focused on doing what we can to widen participation over the coming years and providing everyone with a Home for Success.’
Today we are releasing thinking from:
- Dr Stephen Coulter, Head of Industrial Strategy, Skills and Sustainability, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and James Scales, Policy Lead, Skills and Future of Work, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change on With the target set in 1999 of 50% of young people now participating in higher education, where next for the UK HE sector and economy?
- Rt Hon. Lord Willetts FRS, President of the Resolution Foundation and Former Minister for Universities and Science on What does the Journey to a Million mean for the funding of future provision?
- Dr Jo Saxton, Chief regulator, Office for Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) on What does the Journey to a Million mean for the assessment of qualifications and qualification outcomes?
- Chris Hale, Director of Policy, Universities UK (UUK) on What does the Journey to a Million mean for teaching provision and university facilities?
- Pat Carvalho, Principal, Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMET) on What can the higher education sector learn from the growth in demand that is being experienced within the school and college sector?
- Dr Anthony Manning, Director and Dean of Global Lifelong Learning, University of Kent on How can continued innovation in higher education help us meet national and international demand?
- Professor Nicola Dandridge, Professor of Higher Education Policy, University of Bristol on What does the Journey to a Million mean for the nature of competition in higher education.
- Mike Nicholson, Director of Recruitment, Admissions and Participation, University of Cambridge on What does the Journey to a Million mean for a more competitive admissions landscape.
- Joy Elliott-Bowman, Director of Policy and Development, Independent Higher Education (IHE) on How can diversifying providers help meet the challenge of the Journey to a Million?
To read all these contributions to UCAS’ national debate on Journey to a Million please visit the following two links:
For more information please contact UCAS Press Office at email@example.com, which is monitored regularly.
Notes for editors
About UCAS’ Journey to a Million: 5 Big Challenges & 50 Big Thinkers National Debate
As the UK’s largest and most established admissions body for UK HE for 30 years, UCAS has access to unique application and entry data which has led to this campaign. You can find UCAS’ projections and modelling on the Journey to a Million and thinking already published here www.ucas.com/j2am.
50 key thinkers have contributed to the debate, and tackle key themes such as:
- How do we continue to widen participation?
- What are the answers to the imbalance of supply and demand?
- How do we support students in a more competitive environment?
- How do we promote the full range of choices to students?
- What is the future student experience?
All 50 contributions will be available by summer 2023.
The opinions expressed in individual essays are the authors’ own, and do not reflect the views of UCAS. The purpose of this campaign is to stimulate debate.
The projection for up to one million applicants by 2030 is driven by:
- An increasing 18-year-old population, with the ONS forecasting that there could be nearly 900,000 18-year-olds in the population in 2030– an increase in 180,000 from 2020.
- The number of internationally mobile students will continue to grow with the OECD showing in 2000 there were 1.6m internationally mobile students, rising to 5.6m in 2020, and some forecast this could be as high as 9m in 2030.
- by 2030, UCAS projections show the most likely scenario is a 30% more higher education applicants relative to 2022, with the most pessimistic scenario seeing growth of 19.5% and the most optimistic showing 41%.
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.
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