Record numbers of students accepted to UK universities and colleges this year, UCAS report shows

A total of 532,300 people entered UK higher education in 2015, an underlying increase of 3.1% (16,100) on last year and the highest number recorded, UCAS’ End of Cycle Report reveals today.
Posted Wed 16 December 2015 - 16:01

A total of 532,300 people entered UK higher education in 2015, an underlying increase of 3.1% (16,100) on last year and the highest number recorded, UCAS’ End of Cycle Report reveals today.

Most accepted students are from the UK (463,700), an underlying increase of 2.8% and the highest number placed by UCAS. Acceptances from other EU countries rose by 11% to 29,300, and 39,000 students were accepted from outside the EU, an increase of just 1.9%.

Young people in England became 3% more likely to enter higher education and this, plus a one-year uptick of 2% in the 18 year old population has pushed the number of UK 18 year olds placed up 5% to a record 235,400. 

Universities made a record 1.9 million offers to students and more applicants than ever before got into their first ‘firm’ choice (384,100). The acceptance rate (the proportion of applicants placed) increased by 0.9% to 74.1%, with increases for UK applicants of all ages. In total 718,500 people applied.

Higher Education in England saw the bulk of the increases in total numbers, with Wales broadly similar and a fall of around 1,000 acceptances to HE in Northern Ireland.

The entry rate for 18 year old women grew twice as fast as for men. Women are now 35% more likely to enter than men, the largest difference recorded.

For former free school meal pupils, and those living in poorer areas, women are over 50% more likely to enter than men. Compared to the entry rates for women, a record 36,000 18 year old men are ‘missing’ from universities this year.

Students from the least advantaged backgrounds in England were more likely to enter higher education, including ‘Higher Tariff’ universities, than ever before. Entry rates for disadvantaged 18-year-olds in Northern Ireland and Wales were similar or slightly lower than last year.

The least advantaged young people in England are now 65% more likely to go to university or college than they were in 2006. In 2006, the most advantaged in England were 8.5 times more likely to go to a Higher Tariff university than the least advantaged, but in 2015 that difference had reduced to 6.3 times more likely. 

Amongst young people from English state schools, the White ethnic group were the least likely to enter higher education in 2015 with an entry rate of 28%, compared to 41% for the Asian ethnic group, 37% for the Black ethnic group, 32% for the Mixed ethnic group and 58% for the Chinese ethnic group. The increase in the entry rate of the White ethnic group was 0.6%, smaller than for other groups, widening the gap between the White group and other groups.

UCAS’ Chief Executive Mary Curnock Cook said: “Differences in access to higher education between rich and poor are at historic lows.

“But with further increases in the gap between men and women entering higher education, we can now see clearly that concentrating outreach efforts on young men, particularly White men, would make a significant contribution to diminishing the rich-poor gap.”

The full End of Cycle Report 2015 and underlying data files can be downloaded from the Undergraduate Analysis Reports section of the UCAS website.

In the same section, UCAS has published an experimental interactive map showing entry rates to HE from young people in each parliamentary constituency in the UK (along with downloadable data files).



Notes to Editors


For people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland UCAS covers the overwhelming majority of full-time undergraduate provision so the statistics on acceptances or entry rates can be taken as being very close to all recruitment to full-time undergraduate higher education. In Scotland there is a substantial section of provision 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, and this proportion varies by geography and background within Scotland. Accordingly, figures on entry rates or total recruitment in Scotland reflect only that part of full-time undergraduate study that uses UCAS.

There were also changes to the scope of the data recorded in UCAS scheme in 2015 for Scotland (including teacher training courses in Scotland moving from the dedicated UCAS Teacher Training Scheme into the main UCAS scheme) that are estimated to account for around 3,800 of the increase in total UK acceptances. This gives a like-for-like increase in placed applicants of 16,100 (3.1 per cent).

Higher Tariff providers

A higher education provider belongs to the ‘higher tariff’ group based on the average levels of attainment of their accepted applicants, summarised through UCAS Tariff points in recent cycles. The other two groups are medium tariff providers, and lower tariff providers. Each group of providers accounted for around a third of all UK 18 year old acceptances in recent cycles.

About UCAS

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is a charity and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. We manage applications from over 700,000 people each year for full-time undergraduate courses at over 370 providers across the UK.


UCAS Press Office contacts:

01242 545469 

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