More students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have secured university and college undergraduate places than ever before this year, amid growing demand for courses.
Posted Thu 8 December 2022 - 00:01

UCAS end of cycle data for 2022, published today (Thursday 8 December), shows record numbers of 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas in the UK (POLAR4 quintile 1) have been accepted onto a course – 32,420 students compared to 30,910 last year (+4.9%).

This narrows the entry rate gap between the most and least advantaged to 2.1 – a record low.

Throughout 2022, UCAS communicated how competitive the cycle would be compared to recent years, particularly following unprecedented progression during Covid-19 – but highlighted how student confidence still remained high.

Growth in demand for places has not discouraged UK 18-year-olds, with 330,780 applicants this year – up from 315,945 in 2021 (+4.7%) and significantly higher than the pre-pandemic number of 280,815 in 2019 (+17.8%). This uptick has translated into 277,315 UK 18-year-olds gaining a place, the highest-ever number to date – an increase on 275,235 in 2021 (+0.8%) and 241,515 in 2019 (+14.8%).

This took place against a backdrop of more cautious offer-making from universities and colleges, leading to a 54.3% overall offer rate at higher tariff institutions, down from 59.7% last year.

Yet applicant ambition has seen the number of UK 18-year-olds securing their firm choice of course (200,615) second only to last year’s high (214,015). This year’s figure represents 72.3% of all placed UK 18-year-olds, compared to 77.8% in 2021.

Other key points include:

  • A total of 761,740 applicants of all ages and domiciles applied in 2022 (+2.1% on 2021), of which 563,175 were accepted (+0.2% on 2021).
  • The overall entry rate for UK 18-year-olds is 37.5% this year, the second highest on record – slightly down on 38.3% in 2021 but up from 34.1% in 2019. Broken down by nation, the 2022 entry rates are: 38.4% in England, 40.6% in Northern Ireland, 32.4% in Wales and 30.1% in Scotland.
  • All regions in England bar one saw an uplift in 18-year-olds being accepted onto a course compared to last year. West Midlands saw the biggest increase (+2.5%) while the South West saw the only decline (4.6%) Accepted applicants in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland remained comparative to 2021 figures.
  • In total, 92% of applicants (all ages, all domiciles) received an offer, the same proportion as last year. UCAS analysis found that 21,080 active applicants did not have a place on JCQ results day (Free to be placed in Clearing), of which 12,010 were subsequently accepted onto a course (57.0%), demonstrating how applicants used Clearing to reconsider and explore other options.
  • There has been a 22.1% increase in the number of apprenticeship views on Career Finder compared to last year, showing more young people are looking for apprenticeship opportunities than ever before.
  • This cycle saw continued demand among international students of all ages – with the highest number of accepted applicants on record from China (+13.4% on 2021), India (+43.7%) and Nigeria (+32.7%).
  • This was the first year of the flagship T-levels, with the vast majority receiving an offer and 405 of the 505 applicants (80.2%) going on to be placed, showing how the sector has embraced these new technical qualifications.

With the 2023 application cycle now underway, higher demand is expected to continue into next year and beyond, driven by both demographic increases and demand both here and internationally.

UCAS Chief Executive Clare Marchant said: “This cycle marked a significant shift in the competitive landscape, as students were once again accepted onto courses based on exam results and institutions adapted their approach to offer-making. This makes it even more encouraging to see record numbers of applicants progressing to higher education, in particular those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds continuing the excellent progress in fair access to date. 

“At all points of the 2022 cycle, UCAS was on hand to showcase the full range of higher education options and guide applicants in their next steps, including introducing new tools such as the careers quiz and employer and industry profiles, so it is really positive to see more students pursuing apprenticeship and vocational opportunities alongside traditional undergraduate degrees.

“With UCAS forecasting up to one million applicants in 2026, we are preparing for another competitive cycle this year and have issued guidance to teachers and advisers, which they may wish to take into account when supporting their students. This includes encouraging students to consider the spread of their options when making their five initial choices, and to fully utilise the personalised information, advice and guidance offered through UCAS Hub.”


View the UCAS Undergraduate sector-level end of cycle data resources

UCAS Press Office

07880 488 795 (monitored regularly)


Notes for editors

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.


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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