33.7 per cent of all 18 year olds from England, and 26.7 per cent from Scotland, were accepted through UCAS to start an undergraduate course in 2018. Northern Ireland and Wales saw entry rates similar to 2016.
Posted Thu 13 December 2018 - 00:01

The third release of UCAS’ 2018 End of Cycle Report shows continued increases in the proportion of young people entering higher education from most regions of the UK. Only the East of England, North East, and Yorkshire and Humberside saw small decreases compared to last year.

Around 60 per cent of 18 year old UK students applied with A levels alone, and 10 per cent solely with a BTEC qualification. Almost 8 per cent held a combination of A levels and BTECS, and 6 per cent held SQA Highers. 16 per cent of applicants also held another type of qualification, such as Cambridge Technical, Pre-U or Extended Project qualifications, up almost 3 percentage points from 2017.

The likelihood of students being accepted with lower A level grades continues to grow, with 80 per cent of applicants holding DDD (or equivalent) accepted in 2018. This pattern of acceptance at lower grades is also reflected in BTEC students, where acceptance rates for PPP applicants increased from 50 per cent in 2013 to 70 per cent this year.

There is little difference between reformed and non-reformed BTEC qualifications affecting whether an applicant receives an offer. Predicted grades of both types of BTEC are being treated comparably by universities, despite different predicted grade distributions. Reforms to BTEC qualifications have also not affected an applicant’s chance of being accepted onto a course.

The number of international applicants accepted from several key countries has grown. 10,180 students from China secured a place, up 10 per cent on 2017. Hong Kong, Spain, Poland, Romania, and India also saw increases in 2018. France, Malaysia, Italy, and Cyprus complete the top ten international countries, although each saw fewer acceptances than 2017.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said: ‘Today’s release confirms a key trend over recent years – there’s never been a better time to apply for higher education. Despite the ongoing decline of 18 year olds in the population, the proportion of young people applying and being accepted is at record levels across large parts of the UK, showing a degree is as attractive as ever.

‘However, while an individual student’s potential to succeed on an undergraduate course could’ve been shown during an interview, through a portfolio, or personal statement, universities and colleges must be mindful of accepting applicants with lower grades. Students must be appropriately supported during their studies, so they can flourish on their chosen course.

‘We’re working with schools and universities to improve the accuracy of predicted grades, exploring the different ways teachers make predictions, and how they are used by admissions teams when making offers. Our good practice guide will be published in the new year.

‘The continuing, global appeal of studying in the UK is clear by the increased acceptance numbers from several key countries.’

The full report and data files are available in the ‘Data and analysis’ section of ucas.com.  

Today’s release is also accompanied by the first set of the 2018 end of cycle data resources. These free to access, downloadable files cover over one million data points, with interactive data explorers for users to visualise and tailor the reporting.

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.

This, the third release of the 2018 UCAS Undergraduate End of Cycle Report, covers patterns of geography, and qualifications. A summary of applicants and acceptances, offer-making, and unconditional offer-making to 18 year olds from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales was published on 29 November 2018, and an analysis of patterns of applicant characteristics was published on 6 December 2018.

University-level analysis for the 2018 cycle is due to be published on 31 January 2019.


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.

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