Colleges outstrip grammar schools on university offers

Exclusive: Successful HE applications from college students have gone up the last decade, Ucas data shows

Julia Belgutay

Colleges are outperforming grammar schools when it comes to the proportion of applicants to HE that are accepted

Colleges outperform grammar schools when it comes to the proportion of their higher education applicants accepted on to a degree course.

Data from Ucas, shared exclusively with Tes, breaks down the number of applications and acceptances from different types of post-16 providers.

The figures reveal that the applications body received 43,000 applications from students at FE colleges looking to enter HE in 2018-19 – over one in 10 of all applications that year. Of these, 36,025 were accepted – 83.8 per cent of the total. That is higher than the 82.5 per cent of applicants from grammar schools that were accepted – despite the selective nature of grammar schools and their focus on preparation for university.

Data: The new Ucas acceptance statistics in graphs

Profile: Ucas CEO Clare Marchant

Admissions: Record number of students apply to university

Ucas success

The proportion was lower, however, than that for the government’s flagship academies, which topped the table with 87.8 per cent. This will be seen as a welcome boost for the Conservative Party, which boosted the academies programme in its current form as part of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010.

Sixth-form colleges had the second-highest rate of accepted applications in 2018-19 (87.6 per cent), followed by independent schools (87.1 per cent) and other state schools (85.5 per cent).

The figures cover the UK and all higher education institutions registered with Ucas.

Increase in applications

Over the past 10 years, colleges have seen the largest percentage-point increase in the proportion of applicants to FE accepted of any school form – from 80.62 per cent in 2008-9 to 83.76 in 2018-19. While academies, independent schools, sixth-form colleges and state schools also saw increases in that time, these ranged from 0.81 (academies) to 1.47 (sixth-form colleges) percentage points. Grammar schools saw the proportion of students that applied through Ucas and were accepted drop by 4.82 percentage points in those 10 years – from 87.31 per cent in 2008 to 82.49 per cent.

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “One in three higher education students started in a college and it’s good to see from Ucas statistics that FE college students have an acceptance rate that has improved and matches those from other routes.”

Sixth Form Colleges Association chief executive Bill Watkin said the performance by applicants from sixth-form colleges was no surprise. “[This] is a reflection of only a proportion of the dedicated 16-19 colleges that we represent and so that number could be even higher. It would be really interesting to see what would happen to that number if the colleges that recently became academies were counted in the sixth-form college category. The way sixth-form colleges operate is very much in a sub-university campus way: there is a focus on independent learning and other skills that make students well equipped to go through the university application process. SFCs also have experience in terms of the Ucas application process and advice and guidance. I think this data is reflective of the specialist expertise and the quality of teaching and learning that benefits our learners.”

The Ucas figures cover UK applications and acceptances for 18- and 19-year-olds who applied by the 30 June deadline.

The proportion of applications that was accepted


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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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