Overall demand for higher education in England weakens, but percentage of disadvantaged young people entering increases to record high.
Posted Thu 13 December 2012 - 00:00

Overall demand for higher education in England weakens, but percentage of disadvantaged young people entering increases to record high

UCAS today publishes its End of Cycle report for 2012. This year's more extensive analysis highlights a number of key findings for the first students applying under new tuition fee arrangements and policies across the UK.

The total number of applicants in 2012 dropped by 6.6% to 653,600. Within the 2012 UCAS cycle, there were 464,900 acceptances for full-time UK undergraduate higher education, 27,100 fewer than in 2011. However, because deferral patterns were disrupted in 2011, 53,900 fewer students started their studies in 2012.

The overall acceptance rate (the proportion of all applicants who were placed) increased by almost one percentage point to 71.1%. This increase was not enough to offset the decrease in total applications.

188,700 applicants were unplaced at the end of the cycle – a fall of 9.3% on 2011.

Key findings in the report include:

  • In England, application rates fell below trend in 2012. The proportion of English 18 year olds accepted for entry into higher education also fell in 2012, but levels are consistent with trends since 2006, once deferral rates and other factors in 2011 are taken into account.
  • Entry rates for disadvantaged 18 year olds increased in 2012 across the UK.
  • The entry rate for UK 18 year olds to 'higher Tariff institutions'* increased markedly in 2012 to reach its highest recorded level. More of the 18 year old population from disadvantaged backgrounds entered these higher Tariff institutions than in 2011. Entry rates for this group increased by more than they did for more advantaged applicants.
  • More 18 year olds entered higher education through preferred choice routes in 2012. Proportionately fewer were recruited through their insurance choice or Clearing.
  • Compared to the 2011-12 academic year, UK and EU acceptances into the 2012-13 academic year fell by 7,300 (-7 per cent) in higher Tariff institutions; by 15,500 (-11 per cent) in 'medium Tariff institutions'*; and 30,500 (-14 per cent) in 'lower Tariff institutions'*.
  • In English institutions, restrictions on the recruitment of students with high grades (AAB+ at A level or equivalent) were removed for many courses. Although the acceptance rates for 18 year olds with high grades were better than for those without, the difference narrowed in 2012 because acceptance rates for those with high grades fell, while the acceptance rate for grades below AAB increased.
  • Amongst UK domiciled 18 year olds, women were a third more likely to enter higher education than men. Women are more likely to enter higher education than men are to apply.
  • The average tuition fee for UK and EU acceptances at English institutions in 2012 was £8,389 (excluding fee waivers).

Commenting on the report, UCAS Chief Executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said: 'The headline numbers in this report signal the challenging environment for recruitment in 2012 for some parts of UK higher education.

'However, the underlying findings are more subtle – for example, although demand for higher education has fallen in England, the actual entry rates for young people are close to trend.

'The continuing increase in participation from more disadvantaged groups is very encouraging, as is the absence of any signal that they are turning away from higher fee courses.

'Young women are now a third more likely to enter higher education than men, a difference that has increased this cycle. The fact that women remain more likely to enter higher education than men are to apply, is a striking and worrying finding.'


  • Acceptances from English applicants fell by 6.6% to 343,900 in 2012.
  • Acceptances to institutions in England fell by 6.3% to 388,800 in 2012.
  • The number of 18 year old applicants deferring entry from 2011 to 2012 was significantly lower than typical rates. This, combined with the recovery of deferrals from 2012 to 2013, has magnified the drop in the number of students starting their study in the 2012-13 academic year.


  • Acceptances from Welsh applicants increased by 5.3% to 19,300.
  • Acceptances to institutions in Wales dropped by 8.1% to 24,100.
  • 18 year olds in Wales have become increasingly likely to apply to institutions in England in recent years.


  • Acceptances from Scottish applicants increased by 0.3% to 30,900 in 2012.
  • Acceptances to institutions in Scotland increased by 1.9% to 41,900 in 2012.
  • Most acceptances to Scottish institutions are from Scotland but the number from England increased in 2012.
  • The entry rate for 18 year olds in Scotland has increased to 23.8%.

Northern Ireland

  • Acceptances from applicants living in Northern Ireland fell by 3.7% to 13,300.
  • Acceptances to Northern Irish institutions increased by 5.2% to 10,000.
  • More 18 year olds in Northern Ireland entered Northern Irish institutions but the entry rate to institutions elsewhere in the UK fell.

Notes to Editors

*Institutions can be described as 'higher', 'medium' and 'lower' Tariff based on the average levels of attainment of their accepted applicants (summarised through UCAS Tariff points) in recent cycles. Each group of institutions 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 the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. The charity manages applications from over 650,000 applicants each year for full-time undergraduate courses at over 300 institutions across the UK.

For more information please contact the UCAS press office on 01242 545469 or email communications@ucas.ac.uk.

End of Cycle report 2012

End of Cycle report 2012 data files

End of Cycle report 2012 figures


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