Highest number of students sharing disability and mental health conditions secure place at university

More students than ever before feel comfortable in sharing a disability or mental health condition when applying to university or college, new UCAS data has shown.
Posted Thu 7 December 2023 - 00:01

The 2023 cycle saw UCAS make a series of enhancements to the application experience of students, including the introduction of a range of new questions and improved collection of information about individual needs, such as a disability and mental health condition. 

UCAS end of cycle data for 2023, published today (Thursday 7 December) shows the number of accepted UK applicants sharing a disability increased to 103,000 in 2023, up from 77,000 in 2022 (+33.8%) and 58,000 in 2019 (+77.5%). Those sharing a mental health condition rose to 36,000 this year compared to 22,000 last year (+63.6%) and 16,000 in 2019 (+125%). This could be due in part to fewer accepted students selecting ‘other’ when sharing their individual circumstances – 5,460 in 2023 versus 6,700 in 2022 (-18.5%).

The figures also reveal how many accepted UK applicants responded to at least one of the seven new questions: sharing circumstances such as receiving free school meals (60,410), having caring responsibilities (22,600), being estranged from their parents (11,295), having a parent in the UK Armed Forces (16,010), being a refugee or asylum seeker (7,300), having parenting responsibilities (21,690) or being a UK Armed Forces veteran (1,030). 

These figures highlight how enhancements to the UCAS service help students to explore and connect to the right support, allowing them to flag their individual needs with their university or college choices early on and start important conversations about their progress and success. 

Alongside this, the data shows the second highest number of UK 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have secured a place at university or college this year. A total of 31,590 UK 18-year-olds from POLAR4 Quintile 1 have been accepted – down from the record of 32,415 in 2022 (-2.5%) but a significant increase on 26,535 in 2019 (+19%).

Other key findings from the 2023 end of cycle data include: 

  • Overall, there have been 554,465 total acceptances (all ages, all domiciles) – down from 563,175 in 2022 (-1.5%) but an increase on 541,240 in 2019 (+2.4%).
  • For UK 18-year-olds, 271,735 have been accepted – down from 277,315 in 2022 (-2.0%) but up from 241,515 in 2019 (+12.5% - an increase in 30,000, and a sign of the growing 18-year-old population).
  • There has been a decline in the number of accepted international students – 71,570 which is a decrease from 73,820 in 2022 (-3.0%) and 76,905 in 2019 (-6.9%). We see a different trend when broken down by international students from outside the EU – with 61,055 acceptances, down from 62,455 in 2022 (-2.2%) but significantly up from 45,455 in 2019 (+34%).
  • The entry rate gap between the most (POLAR 4 Quintile 1) and least disadvantaged (POLAR 4 Quintile 5) students has slightly widened to 2.16 compared to 2.09 in 2022.
  • The number of accepted mature students (aged 21 and above) is down – 146,560 compared to 152,490 in 2022 (-3.9%) but an increase on 145,015 in 2019 (+1.1%).
  • Of the 1,860 T Level applicants, 97% received at least one offer. A total of 1,435 people with an achieved T Level have been placed at higher education, up from 405 last year (+254%).

Sander Kristel, Chief Executive of UCAS (Interim), said: 

“Today’s figures show growing numbers of students feel comfortable in sharing a disability or mental health condition as part of their UCAS application. There is nothing worse than a student dropping out or not meeting their potential due to a university not being aware of an individual need that they could have supported with, and today’s data shows the risk of this is reducing. This forms part of our ongoing commitment to improve the admissions process, helping to ensure that all students have available support and guidance to progress to higher education, no matter their background. 

“This additional context also enables universities and colleges to more readily understand the needs of individual applicants, providing additional assistance such as financial bursaries, year-round accommodation, and mental health and disability support. However, there is still work for those of us across the sector to do in closing the gap in participation for those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

“While geopolitics, the economy and job market as well as rising living costs have all played a role in influencing this year’s cycle, we continue to see a strong commitment among young people to go to university or college. It is encouraging to see the number of UK-18-year-olds accepted onto a course remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels, down to a growing 18-year-old population and confidence in the value of a degree.”

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Notes for editors

The term 'disability' covers a range of conditions and impairments and includes long-term health conditions and learning differences. A full explanation of categories used and the wording can be found in our 2022 Next Steps report (7.66 MB).


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 an 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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