Figures showing school leavers in the UK are doing ‘significantly less well’ in securing a place at university this year suggest the economy of undergraduate education could ‘beginning to collapse’ for some English institutions, an admissions expert has warned.
Graduation statistics released by Ucas showed that although a record number of students with offers made it to their first-choice university this year, the share of applicants securing a place fell from 84% to 80. %.
It was the first drop in this metric, known as the acceptance rate, since at least 2012, the data shows, and it’s the lowest proportion of applicants securing a place since 2017.
Mark Corver, co-founder of consulting firm dataHE and former director of analytics and research at Ucas, said places in nursing courses failing to keep pace with the increase of the request explained part of the fall, but it was “not the whole story”.
He said this could be seen by looking at data from 18-year-olds, who are less likely to be nursing applicants, and among whom the acceptance rate has fallen further for the first time since at least 2012, dropping from 89% to 87%. hundred.
Although the figure is still higher than in 2019, the drop was “significant” against the backdrop of young school leavers achieving record high marks this year, Dr Corver said.
“This cohort, which suffered significant educational disruption and no exams, was significantly less successful in earning a place than the 2020 cohort,” he said.
He believed that this was most likely related to a limitation in the supply of places responding to the growing “aggregate demand” for the university.
The 18-year-old population is now on an upward trajectory as a growing share of this age group also apply to college, which political observers have warned will require tens of thousands of undergraduate places more by 2030.
Dr Corver added that the pandemic was also fueling the short-term spike in aggregate demand by not only leading to higher graduation grades but “limiting alternatives” for young people in the economy. On the supply side, many universities were already dealing with a huge cohort entering 2020.
“Many universities took in a lot of extra students last year and real capacity constraints, including accommodation, have been an issue in places,” he said.
But he said another factor affecting the acceptance rate was “probably the economy of full-time UK undergraduates [education] beginning to collapse for some universities” due to maximum fees in England which have hardly increased in a decade.
“The real value of… tuition fees is now down around 20% from 2012. This reduces the ability and desire of universities to increase their supply to the UK to meet demand; an invisible economic cap rather than a visible control of student numbers,” Dr. Corver said.
“The immediate supply of university places has been taken for granted by policy makers in England for a decade. With growing demand from young people and unfavorable economic conditions, this period could be coming to an end.
Dr Corver has previously warned that such constraints could particularly hit disadvantaged students trying to get into the most selective universities. Ucas data shows that the share of all applicants who secured an offer from these institutions fell below 70% this year for the first time since 2013.