More students accepted on university degree courses amid Covid-19 pandemic

More students have been accepted on to UK degree courses this year, Ucas figures show.

A total of 415,600 people, from the UK and overseas, have had places confirmed, up 1.6% on the same point last year, according to data published by the university admissions service.

Among UK applicants, 358,860 have been accepted – a 2.9% rise compared with 2019.

Of these, 316,730 have been accepted on to their first choice, up 2.7% on the same point last year.

So far, 7,600 people have already found places through clearing this year. Of these, 3,860 went directly into clearing to secure a spot rather than applying through the main application scheme.

Clearing is an increasingly popular route for students to find a degree course, with leading universities among those offering last-minute places through the system.

The figures came on the day that students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland were receiving their A-level results.

Students gaining results can log on to the Ucas Track website to see if their university place has been confirmed.

But on Thursday morning, applicants struggled to access the website after it crashed amid “technical issues”, leaving thousands unable to find out whether they had got the grades needed to head to university.

While the Ucas data shows that overall acceptances have risen, a breakdown shows a 15.2% fall in the number of EU students accepted, with 22,430 confirmed so far.

But the number of overseas students, from outside the EU, taking up places has risen by 2% to 34,310.

Nearly a third (30.2%) of British 18-year-olds have taken up places – a record high for results day. This rise comes despite a 1.5% drop in the population of this age group in the UK.

So far, 4% of placed UK students are currently planning to defer starting their course, which is the same proportion as at this point last year.

The data also shows a record number of poorer teenagers securing degree places.

Overall, 20,280 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in England have been accepted into university – up 7.3% on last year’s results day.

This means 18.8% of all young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are due to start an undergraduate degree, a new high for results day.

In Wales, 17.4% from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have been accepted, and in Northern Ireland the proportion is 18.3%.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said: “In a year unlike any other, students should be proud of their achievements.

“It’s especially encouraging to see record numbers of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with a confirmed place at university, and an increase in applicants accepted on to their first choice.”

She added: “Universities and colleges have plans to welcome students on to their courses as safely as possible, which have been received well, as we’re seeing a similar proportion of placed applicants currently planning to defer as last year.”