The number of UK 18-year-olds applying for the most selective university courses has fallen slightly, following last year’s record high.
Posted Thu 27 October 2022 - 00:01

The equal consideration deadline for applications to Oxford and Cambridge, as well as medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses, ended on 15 October.

UCAS figures published today (27 October) show 38,660 UK 18-year-olds have applied for these courses – down from 39,920 in 2022 (-3.2%) but in line with 38,580 in 2021 (+0.2%), and up from 35,290 in 2020 (+9.5%) and 33,630 in 2019 (+15.0%).

In total, 74,090 students have applied this year compared to 77,810 last year (-4.8%), 76,940 in 2021 (-3.7%), 68,690 in 2020 (+7.9%) and 66,040 in 2019 (+12.2%).

There has been a decrease from last year in the number of applications from international students (-3.9%), disadvantaged students from the UK (-2.6%), and those wanting to study medicine (-9.7%). This deadline typically represents about 10% of the total number of applicants in a cycle.

Despite strong increases on pre-pandemic demand in 2019, there are likely to be a number of factors at play this year in the context of a growing UK 18-year-old demographic, with the return of examinations, and as students become increasingly conscious of the cost of living. UCAS regularly surveys its 1.5 million pre-applicants and will provide further insights on sentiment as the main January application deadline passes.

Meanwhile, UCAS has transformed the application process for 2023 onwards by introducing seven new questions, designed to support widening access. It means there is now a broader suite of options for applicants to choose from when highlighting their individual circumstances.

UCAS analysis shows that most UK applicants for the October 15 deadline (98%) have responded to at least one of these new questions while one in five (18%) positively answered at least one question, sharing circumstances such as receiving free school meals (11%), having caring responsibilities (4%), having a parent in the armed forces (2.8%) or being estranged (1%). It means that for the first time, universities and colleges will be able to more readily understand the background of these students, and offer enhanced support.

UCAS Chief Executive Clare Marchant said: “This year is another unique cycle influenced by many external factors as young people consider their choices against a backdrop of rising living costs – something we are monitoring very closely.

“While we saw exceptional growth in the most selective courses during the Covid-19 pandemic, as ambitious students were inspired to study medicine, it is encouraging to see this year’s figures are much higher than pre-pandemic levels. Demand for these courses, and for places at Oxford and Cambridge, remains strong and there will still be stiff competition for places at UK medical schools.

“With the majority of UK applicants responding to the new UCAS application questions, and nearly one in five students positively answering at least one, this will enable us to work with universities and colleges to help connect students to the right support for their needs and facilitate a smooth transition to undergraduate study.

“We will continue to analyse the data closely as we approach the equal consideration deadline for all other courses, universities and colleges on 25 January 2023.”

View the 15 October deadline application data in our interactive dashboard


UCAS Press Office

07880 488 795 (monitored regularly)


Notes for editors

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.

Related news