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UK University Applications Fall by 4%

UK University Applications Fall by 4% main image

The number of applications to UK universities has dropped by more than 25,000 (4%) overall compared to last year, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service’s (UCAS) latest data pull.

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This is the first decline in applications since 2012 when tuition fees were raised to £9,000 a year, and follows the announcement that Home/EU fees are to be raised once again to £9,250 in England.

Nursing suffered the sharpest drop in applications (19% down from the previous year), which follows the UK government’s decision to scrap NHS bursaries from autumn 2017. This huge change in funding means that nursing students will have access to the general student loans system, with no extra financial help from the government.

There has also been a significant drop in applications to UK universities from mature students (aged 25 and above) in England, of 18% (11,190).

Decline in EU student applications

In February this year, UCAS reported a decline of 7% in undergraduate EU applications compared to the previous year (based on the 15 January deadline), with the aftermath of the Brexit vote considered to be a key factor in this drop.

However, the latest figures from UCAS (based on the 30 June deadline) show that the number of EU applications has  now dropped by 5% overall, showing some signs of improvement on previous figures, but which will nonetheless cause concern for university leaders.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the MillionPlus group of modern universities, commented that "there is no doubt that the government's approach to Brexit is damaging and is creating huge uncertainties, both for EU students and UK universities.”

The UK government has previously confirmed that EU students commencing their studies in both 2017 and 2018 will continue to be charged the same fees as home students and will continue to be eligible for the same financial aid, even if the UK leaves the EU during the duration of their course.

However, a report recently published by the QS Intelligence Unit (‘Is Brexit Turning International Students Away From the UK?’) showed that many EU students felt concerned by the UK’s perceived unfriendliness towards immigrants, and many also felt a lack of certainty towards Brexit and were critical of the UK government’s communication on the matter. 

Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, stressed the importance of "continuing to communicate to European applicants that they are welcome and enrich our education system”, and also noted that “the decline in part-time and mature student entrants must also be addressed.”

On a more optimistic note, UCAS’ data also shows that applications from non-EU overseas countries are up by 2% overall, from 69,300 in 2016 to 70,830 this year, showing that the UK is still a popular study destination of choice for international students. It’s been noted that the decline in the value of the pound actually makes studying at UK universities somewhat more affordable for overseas students.

The application rate from 18-year olds in England also rose from 37.2% in 2016 to a new record high of 37.9%, despite the latest tuition fee increase, with 1,510 more applicants compared to 2016.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
Sabrina is a content writer for TopUniversities.com, providing guidance on a wide range of topics. A graduate of Aberystwyth University, Sabrina is originally from the West Midlands but now lives in London. 

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