University acceptances increase, but growth in numbers holding vocational qualifications slows, UCAS report finds

Posted Wed 28 September 2016 - 15:43
Almost 522,000 students have been accepted to UK universities through UCAS so far this year, an increase of over 7,000 (+1%) on this point in 2015, new figures show today.

UCAS’ interim report (taken four weeks after A Level results day) details the numbers of people expected to start full-time higher education in 2016-17 by the UK country they are due to study in, and by the type of qualifications they hold.

Acceptances to start university courses in England in the 2016-17 entry year are up by 1% to 439,380; in Northern Ireland by 5% to 10,410; in Scotland by 4% to 46,380 and in Wales by 3% to 25,350.

UCAS figures also give headline totals on the types of qualifications held by those starting university courses this year.

The number of students entering HE and holding BTEC qualifications with higher grades is similar to last year, in contrast to typical annual increases of over 4,000 in recent years. 

This coincides with falls in the number of students taking vocational qualifications at Level 2 in 2014 following changes limiting which vocational qualifications could be included in school performance measures.

The number starting university in 2016-17 with A levels is similar to the past couple of years despite the falling 18 year old population.  Students with higher grades at A level total 88,120, a small decrease on last year (-1%) and back to the figure seen two years ago.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS’ Chief Executive said: “While vocational qualifications such as BTEC have been important drivers of widening participation in recent years, I also welcome the stability of A level numbers this year, despite the slight shift to lower grade profiles. 

“Students with even quite modest A levels have more choice of university courses and the evidence points to better retention and success once at university.”

The full analytical report and accompanying tables can be found in the UCAS Undergraduate Analysis Reports section of the UCAS website.

Notes to editors

In 2014, a change in government policy on how qualifications could be used in performance tables meant that, for example, vocational qualifications such as BTECs could no longer count as more than one GCSE.

This ‘entry year’ figures reported here by UCAS removes ‘gap year’ students who have deferred entry to 2017, but includes those starting this year after being accepted for deferred entry last time round. This is a clearer guide to the numbers due to start courses in any single year.

Acceptances at this point are usually around 98 per cent of the eventual end of cycle totals over recent cycles.

The number of acceptances by entry year at this point can differ from the final number of higher education enrolments recorded on statistical returns, due to a number of varying factors. Numbers for deferred entry are also reported, these typically increase between this reference point and the end of the cycle as some students change from immediate to deferred entry.

The final application and acceptances figures, by UCAS cycle, will be published as part of the End of Cycle report in December 2016.

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. This proportion varies by geography and background in Scotland. Accordingly, the statistics on UCAS acceptances in these data resources reflect the majority of full-time undergraduate study in universities and do not include those studying in FE colleges.

From the 2015 cycle onwards, applications to postgraduate teacher training programmes in Scotland were included in the UCAS Undergraduate admissions scheme. Previously, these were recruited through UCAS Teacher Training. In 2015, around 120 courses at providers in Scotland moved into the UCAS Undergraduate scheme, estimated to represent around 2,000 acceptances, mostly aged 21 or over. Comparisons between 2016-17 and 2014-15 (or earlier cycles) will be affected by this change.

About UCAS

UCAS is a charity and is the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. We manage applications from over 700,000 applicants each year for full-time undergraduate courses at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

UCAS press office contacts:

01242 545 469

Related news