Over the past two years, UCAS has released these high-impact reports that shone a light on pertinent issues in education and skills.

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Global Insights: What are the experiences of Chinese students in the UK? – December 2023

In this report, UCAS in partnership with Pearson, reflects on the full student lifecycle of Chinese students in the UK, from their background and why they choose to study in the UK, to their experiences of UK higher education, and plans post-graduation.

Key findings include:

  • Nine in ten Chinese students would recommend the UK as a study destination. 92% also share that their expectations of course quality have been exceeded or met.
  • More than 1/3 are heading to London: Three regions (London, the North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber) account for more than half of Chinese acceptances (57%).
  • Subject choice is evolving. Business has consistently been the most popular HE subject choice for Chinese students in the past decade (43% of acceptances in 2013 to 26% of acceptances in 2023); however, creative arts and design subjects have more than doubled in popularity (4% of acceptances in 2013 to 11% in 2023).
  • Almost three in four Chinese students enrolled in a UK UG degree are also considering a postgraduate (PG) degree in the UK. Finding a job in the UK (43%) or in China (34%) are also popular options.

Global Insights: What are the experiences of Chinese students in the UK? (5.17 MB)

Mandarin translated: What are the experiences of Chinese students in the UK? (2.63 MB)

Global Insights: What are the experiences of Chinese students in the UK? – data tables (36.77 KB)

Global Insights: What are the experiences of Chinese students in the UK? – application data (12.49 KB)

Where next? What influences the choices of would-be apprentices? – July 2023

UCAS, with the Sutton Trust, release a flagship report into apprenticeships seeking to understand the barriers and choices made in the decision-making of would-be apprentices.

Key findings include:

  • Three in five (61%) former applicants did not pursue an apprenticeship because they could not find one in their preferred location.
  • 50% of apprentices told us their experience of applying was positive, compared to 90% of placed university and college applicants.
  • One in three apprentices from a lower socioeconomic background receive no support with their application.
  • Previous UCAS research has shown how one in three students consider university as early as primary school, this figure is less than 5% for apprenticeships.
  • One in three (35%) students previously interested in studying an apprenticeship said they were prevented from doing so due to a lack of roles in their desired career.

View the report and data files

Journey to a Million – March 2023

UCAS projects that there could be up to a million higher education applicants in a single year in 2030, up from almost three quarters of a million today.

In response to its projections, UCAS, in collaboration with Unite Students and Knight Frank, is launching a national debate – highlighting the key challenges and opportunities created by increased demand during this potential Journey to a Million.

Read the Journey to a Million essays

Next Steps: What is the experience of students from a care background in education? – November 2022

UCAS, in partnership with the Unite Foundation, examines the educational experiences of students from a care background.

Key findings include:
  • Three in five care-experienced applicants receive no support specific to their circumstances: 60% of surveyed applicants said they did not receive guidance at school around applying to higher education specific to their status as a care-experienced student, and there is a knowledge gap about support options among both applicants and their advisers.
  • Students’ decision making is influenced by their individual support needs: three quarters of surveyed applicants took mental health and wellbeing support into account (76%), with financial support (64%) and guaranteed accommodation (63%) also important when researching higher education options.
  • Care-experienced applicants have a less linear education pathway: they are 69% more likely to apply aged 21 or above than non-care-experienced applicants, making access to careers advise and statutory support more difficult, and they are over twice as likely to take an Access to HE Diploma.

View the findings and report

Next Steps: What is the experience of disabled students in education? – July 2022

UCAS, in collaboration with Pearson, publishes a piece of research which provides new insight into disabled students in education, and for the first time, examines each impairment category and how disability intersects with other personal characteristics to understand the patterns and preferences – and whether there are hidden challenges. The report explores both disabled students' experiences of education to date and their excitements and worries about progressing to higher education.

Key findings include:

  • Disabled applicants are more likely to defer entry to HE: before the pandemic, disabled students were 23% more likely to defer entry than non-disabled students, rising to 28% in 2021 – this disparity varies by impairment type.
  • Students’ decision making is influenced by the HE institution’s support offer: 56% research an institution’s support for disabled students before applying, with its reputation for equality, diversity and inclusion being of particular importance.
  • Students are looking forward to the social aspects of university life: only 17% of respondents felt satisfied with access to inclusive extra-curricular activities at school or college, whereas 44% expect the social opportunities at university or college to be good or excellent.

Next Steps: What is the experience of disabled students in education? report (7.66 MB)

Next Steps: What is the experience of disabled students in education? data files (205.62 KB)

Where Next? What influences the choices international students make? – May 2022

UCAS, in partnership with the College Board, provides new insight on the attributes and mindset of undergraduate international students. Key findings include:

  • Demand for UK HE is high: UCAS forecasts the volume of international undergraduate applicants will increase by 46% to 208,500 by 2026, with over 50,000 expected from China.
  • Aspirations are shaped in early years: More than 1 in 10 international students are considering HE abroad before their 11th birthday.
  • Many are following in their parents’ footsteps: Around half (47%) say that parents/guardians or close members of their family have previously studied abroad.
  • Motivation differs by nation: Nigerian students are most interested in gaining skills to support them in their career (chosen by 80% of Nigerian respondents); meanwhile, for Indian students, the most important factor is that HE options are of ‘better quality’ (75% of respondents from India).
  • Global HE has something for everyone: Prospects after graduation appear to be more important for those wanting to study in the US (57%), Singapore (54%) and the UK (54%); whereas experiencing life in that country is more important to those considering Italy (75%) and the Netherlands (72%).

Where next? What influences the choices international students make? report (1019.84 KB)

International students report data files (46.58 KB)

Next Steps: Who are the ‘future nurses’? – January 2022

UCAS, in partnership with Health Education England (HEE), paints a picture of the next generation of nurses who have been inspired by the pandemic. It finds:

  • COVID inspires the next generation of nurses: The pandemic inspired more than two-thirds (69%) of 2021 nursing applicants to apply, with around one in ten stating it was the most important factor.
  • Younger applicants find value in nursing: Numbers of 18 year olds applying to nursing in 2021 are up 38% relative to 2019, translating into an increase in acceptances of 43%.
  • Immediate boom in mature acceptances: 2020 sees record demand and acceptances from aspiring nurses aged 21 and above. Demand continues into 2021 (+14% on 2020), but acceptances dip (-3% on 2020).
  • Current nurses are inspiring a future generation: Around 1 in 4 of 2021 nursing applicants state that current healthcare personnel were the most influential in their decision to apply to nursing.
  • Nursing applicants are extremely confident in their choice of career: 99% of 2021 nursing applicants are confident they have made the right decision to study nursing.

Next steps: Who are the 'future nurses'? report (1.98 MB)

Who are the future nurses data files (40.47 KB)

Where next? The experience of international students connecting to UK higher education – January 2022 

UCAS is the single largest channel for international students entering UK study. This report examines students’ perceptions of the UK as a higher education destination, and the impact of the pandemic on applications to UK higher education. Key findings include: 

As a destination for study, the UK fulfils key criteria related to learning, living and employability. 88% of international applicants continue to see the UK as a positive or very positive place to study.  

Top factors motivating students to study in the UK include the prestige of UK universities (47%), the desire to live in the UK (45%), and teaching quality (43% overall – with 36% of undergraduates and 49% of postgraduates indicating this as priority). 

However, half of students didn’t feel completely ready to start their course ahead of the current academic year, and 72% of students wanted more information on what their academic year would look like, revealing a gap in knowledge and support during the crucial transition to studying in the UK. 

Where next? The experience of international students connecting to higher education (627.45 KB)

Next steps: UCAS report on LGBT+ students – September 2021

Each year, 40,000 LGBT+ students apply to UK higher education. For many, the transition to education and training presents an opportunity to consider how they discuss their identity. This research, in partnership with Stonewall, explores:

  • the progression characteristics of LGBT+ students, including popular courses, providers,and the relationship with other characteristics. 
  • the experience of LGBT+ students in education to date, and their expectations for higher education.
  • the key influencers of LGBT+ students when making decisions about their future. 

View the findings and report

Where next? Who doesn't plan to start a full-time undergraduate degree in autumn? – August 2021

Our latest research found that 56% of 17-19 year olds who are receiving their grades on results day, but not intending to start a traditional degree course in the autumn, have considered an apprenticeship. A further 22% said their main plan is an apprenticeship (16% higher/degree level, 6% advanced level). It also found:


  • The main features of apprenticeships are attractive to young people, including choosing options that ‘earn money’ (50%), to continue learning but in ‘a different way’ (43%), and to do something ‘new and different’ (42%). 
  • 11% say they had received enough careers information, advice, and guidance and did not require any more, while 9% state they did not receive any at all. 
  • Just under a fifth of students (18%) who are not planning to go to university or college in autumn feel they do not have many options for next year. 

Where next? Who doesn't plan to start a full-time undergraduate degree in autumn? (431.78 KB)

Starting the conversation: UCAS report on student mental health – June 2021

This deep dive into student mental health, one of the most pertinent issues impacting education and training today, identified an over 450% increase in the disclosure of mental health conditions over the last decade. In addition, the report found:

  • 3.7% of all UK applicants declared a mental health condition in their application to study in 2020 – up from 0.7% in 2011.
  • Women are 2.2 times more likely to declare a mental health condition than men.
  • Alongside engineering, medicine and dentistry courses have the lowest declaration rates, with only 1.4% of accepted applicants sharing an existing mental health condition.
  • Some LGBT+ students are around six times more likely to share a mental health condition, and care experienced students are almost three times as likely – underlining the value of recognising how mental health intersects with other characteristics and support needs.
  • One in five students research support specifically for an existing mental health condition before they apply, and more than one in four look at the provision of general mental health and wellbeing service.

Starting the conversation: UCAS report on student mental health (565.91 KB)

 Student mental health report data tables (40.1 KB)

Where next? Improving the journey to becoming an apprentice – May 2021

Our second report in the ‘Where next?’ series focused on the experience of students exploring apprenticeship opportunities. Key findings include: 

  • Over half of students looking to apply to higher education in 2022 are interested in apprenticeships, but find it difficult to access relevant information. 
  • More needs to be done to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships - only 8% of students surveyed associated apprenticeships with leading to a good job.
  • Only 4% of students associate the word ‘prestigious’ with apprenticeships, compared with 76% for a traditional university degree.

Where next? Improving the journey to becoming an apprentice (183.86 KB)

Where next? What influences the choices school leavers make? – April 2021

A ground-breaking report, based on a survey of 27,000 students, mapping how they make their education choices, and the consequences of these choices. Key findings include:

  • One in five students couldn’t study a degree subject that interested them because they didn’t have the right subjects to progress. This is most apparent for some degree courses, such as medicine and dentistry, maths, economics or languages.
  • One in three students understand that higher education is an option for them at primary school. However, advantaged students are 1.4 times more likely to think about higher education in primary school than their disadvantaged peers.
  • One in three students do not receive information about apprenticeships, despite the Baker Clause in England.

Where next? What influences the choices school leavers make? (1.56 MB)

Fixed and fluid degree subjects (64.19 KB)

What influences the choices school leavers make: data resources (5.71 KB)

What happened to the COVID cohort? Lessons for levelling up in 2021 and beyond – December 2020

Providing unparalleled insight into the trends and behaviours of students progressing to higher education during the pandemic, and challenges faced in levelling up participation. Key findings included:

  • Record proportions of UK 18 year olds applied (41.5%) and were accepted (37%) into university or college, despite widespread concern that demand for higher education would fall due to the pandemic.
  • Based on the current trajectory, it will take 332 years to close the equality gap in participation between the most and least advantaged. The annual admission of 70 more of the most disadvantaged English 18 year old pupils to each higher tariff provider could all but eliminate the equality gap highlighted through UCAS’ multiple equality measure (MEM) in just a decade. 
  • The UK’s 18 year old population is set to rise; UCAS projects there will be an additional 90,000 applicants by 2025 and potentially increased competition for the most selective courses. Without intervention, there is potential for widening access and participation progress for traditional three-year, full time undergraduate programmes to stall, and possibly reverse.

End of Cycle Report 2020: What happened to the COVID cohort? (1.84 MB)

What happened to the COVID cohort: Annex A (466.51 KB)

What happened to the COVID cohort: Annex B (303.74 KB)

What happened to the COVID cohort: Annex C (440.89 KB)


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