Record number of 18-year-olds in UK plan to go to university this year, figures show

Record number of disavantaged students are to start undergraduate courses too, data shows

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 08 September 2021 09:15
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<p>A record number of students achieved the top A-level grades this year</p>

A record number of students achieved the top A-level grades this year

A record number of 18-year-olds in the UK are planning on starting university this year, according to new figures.

Ucas, the university admissions service, said around 272,500 young people had been accepted onto full-time undergraduate courses as of Tuesday.

This is seven per cent higher than the year before, and an all-time record.

It comes after more than 44 per cent of students achieved an A or A* grade in their A-level grades this year in England - the highest figure to date.

The government said the rise in top grades reflected how this year’s grading process “gave all students a chance to do their best” by being assessed only on what they had been taught and taking multiple pieces of evidence into account.

Grades were determined by teachers after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row amid the Covid pandemic.

With students achieving higher grades this year, more young people have been accepted onto their first-choice course, with the Ucas figures showing a 15 per cent increase.

Just under a quarter of 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have been accepted onto an undergraduate course this year - the highest level to date.

In total, the new Ucas figures show a record 37.9 per cent of 18-year-olds in the UK are due to start a full-time undergraduate course.

Clare Marchant, the chief executive of Ucas, said: “Students’ hard work throughout the year in incredibly trying circumstances has been rightly rewarded with more of them achieving the grades to secure their first choice of course.”

“More students placed at their first choice has led to a slower Clearing than we’ve seen in recent years.”

Ms Marchant said some students - particularly mature applicants looking to find a place locally - make late decisions through Clearning and there are still available places on over 20,000 courses.

Because of this, she said she expects the record figure for numbers starting university to rise.

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