Applications to 'early deadline' university courses reach all-time high

More people than ever before have applied for places at Cambridge and Oxford universities, or to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary science

Jonathan Owen

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A record number of students have applied for places at Oxbridge or to study for degrees in medicine, dentistry or veterinary science, according to figures released today by Ucas.

The number of applicants to "early deadline" university courses, which closed on 15 October, was boosted by a nearly 10 per cent rise in applications from overseas students.

There were 61,440 applicants for these courses, which include medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine and science courses – and for all courses at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

The volume of applications this year is the highest since Ucas began recording this data in 2010 and represents a 7 per cent rise from last year’s figures. It indicates a “robust start” to the university admissions process for 2018, according to Ucas.

Application trends

The number of applicants from Britain has risen by 6 per cent on last year, reaching 41,970 – the highest number ever recorded.

This increase has been fuelled by a rise in applications from 18-year-olds in England and Wales of 8 and 7 per cent respectively, despite a fall in the number of 18-year-olds in Britain of around 3 per cent this year. In Northern Ireland there was a 4 per cent fall in applications, while the rise in Scotland was 2 per cent.

Overseas students accounted for almost a third (31.6 per cent) of all applicants to October deadline courses, amounting to 19,470 applications – a 9.6 per cent year-on-year rise.

There were 6,610 applicants from the European Union alone – more than in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales combined – and up 6 per cent on last year. The weak pound, and campaigns to attract foreign students, are thought to have contributed to the rise.

Popular university programmes

There has also been a surge in the number of people wanting to study medicine. Around a third of this year’s "early deadline" applicants have applied for courses in medicine. The 20,730 applications in this category amount to the largest number since 2014 and an 8 per cent increase on last year.

The growing demand may be a result of the 500 extra places at medical school that will be available next year, according to Ucas.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, commented: “These degree programmes and universities are always popular. At a time of uncertainty, it’s encouraging that UK higher education remains so attractive, not only to UK students but also those from EU countries – and internationally.”

But the statistics released today only represent around one in 10 prospective university students – with most courses starting in 2018 having a deadline of next January for applications.

Ms Marchant said: “We’ll need to wait until after the 15 January 2018 deadline to understand what the overall demand for UK higher education looks like”.

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Jonathan Owen

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