University entrance rates for school leavers at a record high and four other key points from new Ucas research

Ucas stats show how the pattern of young people going to university varies widely across the UK

Jonathan Owen

New figures suggest that it is a 'buyer's market' for students applying to university

A geographic breakdown of the entry rates of 18-year-olds into higher education in 2017 is revealed in new data released by Ucas, the universities admissions body, today.

Here are five key points from the statistics:

1. A record proportion of 18-year-olds are going to university

Young people are more likely to enter higher education than ever before, in a continuation of a rising trend over the past decade. Across England, the entry rate for 18-year-olds was 33.3 per cent, an increase of 2.5 per cent on 2016.

Since 2012 the entry rates in all regions have increased each year and reached their highest ever levels in 2017.

2. London is outstripping the rest of the country

Eighteen-year-olds in the capital are more likely to enter higher education than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.

The new figures show that 41.8 per cent of 18-year-olds from London entered higher education in 2017, an increase of 4.7 per cent from 2016. This is significantly higher than the 33.3 per cent average across England and indicates a growing gap between the proportion of 18-year-olds from London and those from the rest of the country that go to university.

Clare Marchant, Ucas chief executive, comments: “There have been significant and much-documented improvements to secondary education in the capital. Understanding how to replicate this high level of attainment could help drive increases in entry rates elsewhere”.

3. Variation across the UK

Scotland has the lowest rate, at 25.9 per cent. This is almost 40 per cent less than the rate in London. In England, 18-year-olds in the South West and North East are the least likely to go into higher education, with rates of 28.9 and 30.3 per cent respectively.

In Northern Ireland, the entry rate this year was 34.5 per cent, while in Wales it was 29.4 per cent.

London and the South East are the only regions in England where the entry rates exceed the national average of 33.3 per cent.

The differences in entry rate across England means that 18-year-olds from London are 44 per cent more likely to enter higher education than those from the South West.

4. Record numbers of students going to Scottish universities

The number of Scottish 18-year-olds going to Scottish universities has risen by 3 per cent this year and, at 34,830, is a record high. The number of English students accepted at Scottish universities was also the highest ever, at 4,945 – an increase of 2.8 per cent on last year.

While there was a 4.3 per cent increase in overseas students from outside the EU entering Scottish higher education, the number of students from the EU dropped by 10 per cent.

5. Mixed picture for foreign students

The number of students from outside the EU coming to study in Britain has risen by 5 per cent this year – reaching a record number of 40,205. In contrast, the number coming from the EU has fallen 2.1 per cent – amounting to 30,700 in 2017.

There were fewer acceptances this year from most European counties, including Germany, Ireland, Romania and Bulgaria, according to Ucas. But acceptances of places by students from other countries, such as Portugal, Lithuania, Poland and Spain, have increased.

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Jonathan Owen

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