Drop in UCAS applications for 2013 entry is narrowing

On 3 January UCAS published early data on university applications for 2013. This showed applications were down by 6% compared to 2012 (based on data from 17 December 2012) and was widely reported in the media.

UCAS applications for 2013 entry – The Complete University Guide predicts figures to be similar to 2012.

However, according to data seen by The Complete University Guide in early January the gap has narrowed to around 2% overall. We predict that applications by the 15 January deadline will be very similar to the 2012 figures, with around 450,000 prospective students applying for places.

Universities are reporting informally that a 10–15% drop of four weeks ago has narrowed significantly and while there are some subject related patterns in the early application stats (creative arts, architecture, arts, humanities, social sciences and business show above average decreases) the overall picture is not as gloomy as the media would suggest.

Fluctuations in data day by day are inevitable as school/college terms end on different days (some students wait until their school/college imposed deadline) and students do not have to make all their five UCAS choices at once.

It is not widely known but some UCAS applicants are holding back one or two of their five choices to allow more time for research, visits and enquiries or ensuring that their application to a highly competitive or first choice University is in early, but holding back on their 'fall-back' choices.

Many students are also being more realistic in their choices if specific University entry requirements are way beyond the reach of their predictions, so are waiting until after Christmas to see how their studies have progressed.

The reality too is that applications do not mean actual enrolments. In 2012 some Universities have reported that around 5% of students who had places confirmed in August/September did not actually take up those places in October. They may have been considering other options such as apprenticeships, study abroad programmes or gap years.

Whilst a degree is not a guarantee of high earnings or a successful career, UK/EU graduates will only actually pay their fees and loans back if, and only if, they enter jobs with salaries of £21,000 or over (in England and Wales), or £15,795 and above (in Scotland and Northern Ireland). The less tangible benefits of UK higher education are just as important – with heavy investment in facilities, student experience, teaching and entrepreneurship in recent years, perhaps as a direct result of the increased contribution graduates will make to their fees. Unemployment rates for UK graduates continue to be around half those of under 25s as a whole.

The key message is to have your eyes open, take advice and choose wisely. This could be by using some of the data, advice and rankings on The Complete University Guide website. Above all make an application on or before the 15 January initial deadline if University is one of your possible options for 2013 and beyond. International students can apply later if they wish but are encouraged to apply initially as early as possible so Visa and other arrangements are in place.

Good luck!

Read advice on applying to university and check out the student loan repayment calculator in The Complete University Guide.