More students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds across the UK are set to start degrees this autumn

More students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds across the UK are set to start degrees this autumn, as the global pandemic has not dampened progress on widening participation in universities and colleges.
Posted Thu 24 September 2020 - 00:01

New analysis published by UCAS today shows the number of students accepted onto full-time undergraduate courses as of 10 September (28 days after A level and BTEC results day). In recent years, around 95% of students have been placed by this point, providing a reliable indication of final figures ahead of full end of cycle reporting in the winter. Enrolment is currently taking place, with universities and colleges placing paramount importance on implementing safety measures in light of coronavirus.

A record 28,030 18 year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds (POLAR4 quintile 1) across the UK have been accepted into university – up 8% on the equivalent point last year. This means 22.5% of all young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are due to start an undergraduate degree – a new high for four weeks after results day, which continues to close the gap with students from the most advantaged areas. This trend can also be seen in each of the four nations of the UK.

Overall demand for higher education has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, and there are currently a record 515,650 students with a confirmed place – up 4% on last year. The proportion of students with a confirmed deferred place is similar to last year (5.7% in 2020, 5.4% in 2019).

Following three years of decreases, accepted applicants from the UK are up 4%, to 441,720. When looking at 18 year olds specifically, 36.4% of all young people (253,890 students) are due to start a course – a new high for this point in the year.

The number of students accepted from outside the EU has risen by 9% to 44,300, while EU acceptances have decreased by 2%, to 29,630.

All of today’s statistics can be found in our interactive dashboard, allowing users to visualise and tailor the reporting to their own specification.

Clare Marchant, UCAS Chief Executive, said: ‘As students are starting their new courses across the country, these numbers confirm the enduring appeal and welcome of our outstanding universities and colleges.

‘They, along with schools, UCAS, and organisations across the entire education sector, have worked tirelessly in recent months to provide reassurance and flexibility to applicants, and ensure access to the best opportunities possible.

‘I admire students for their adaptability and resilience in recent months, which will put them in a strong position to thrive on their courses and benefit from the world-class education they’ll receive through a variety of innovative methods this year.’


UCAS Press Office

01242 545 469


Notes for editors

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 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

In Scotland, there is a substantial section of higher education that is not included in UCAS' figures. This is mostly full-time higher education provided in further education colleges, which represents around one third of young full-time undergraduate study in Scotland – this proportion varies by geography and background within Scotland. Accordingly, figures on applications and application rates in Scotland reflect only those applying for full-time undergraduate study through UCAS.

Consistent with all other in-cycle reporting, Records of Prior Acceptance (RPAs) are excluded from this analysis, although will be included in end of cycle reporting.

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