ASCL response to UCAS figures on university entries

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on UCAS data about record numbers of students entering higher education.
While there may be record numbers of students entering higher education, there are also huge numbers missing out. UCAS figures show that more than 107,000 UK applicants have not secured a university place at all this year and that this is an increase of 11,100 since 2021.

“Many of these applicants are young people who have been hit by the effects of the pandemic which has caused severe disruption to their education over the past two years, and they deserve and need as much support as possible. Instead, we see that the percentage of students securing a place through clearing this year has actually fallen to 58% compared to 62% in 2019 when exams were last taken. Too many young people appear to have been let down by a higher education system which should have done better for them.

“This comes in the context of an increase in the number of 18-year-olds in the population, which is projected to continue to grow very significantly over the next few years, and is likely to put ever-more pressure on university places, particularly for the most selective universities and courses. 

“The higher education sector, the government and employers all need to think about how they create opportunities for all young people in the future, not only at universities, but through apprenticeship schemes which offer sufficient breadth and quality across a range of industries. 

“This must be supported by more government investment in independent careers advice and information which schools and colleges can draw upon to help their students identify and secure the choices which best suit their needs. We must become a society which genuinely promotes and facilitates a range of pathways for young people allowing them to fulfil their aspirations and provide the array of skills the country requires for a successful and prosperous future

Note: The number of unplaced applicants is sourced from a UCAS ‘cribsheet’ entitled ‘Day 28 Key figures: UK’. The relevant section says:
Unplaced applicants
There are currently 107,290 unplaced applicants from the UK in 2022. This is a change of +11,100 (12 %) since 2021. It is also 410 more than on JCQ results day. The number of unplaced applicants from the UK was highest in 2014