‘Aspirational’ students cause jump in university applications for Oxbridge and medicine in 2021

Students are being “aspirational” with their university choices for 2021, with applications to the most competitive courses seeing a significant jump, Ucas has said. 

According to figures released by the admissions service, a total of 44,220 UK students – up 14 per cent on last year – have applied to undergraduate courses with the early application deadline of 15 October. 

This is the deadline for those wanting to study at Oxford, Cambridge and for most medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses at other universities.

Applications up

A record 2,800 18 year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK have applied (Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire)

The increase in applications has come despite grim scenes of rampant Covid-19 outbreaks at many universities and locked down student halls. 

A record 2,800 18 year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK have applied – an increase of 19 per cent on last year. This compared to an 8 per cent increase in applicants from the most privileged backgrounds to reach 17,140. 

International applicants from outside the EU increased by 20 per cent to 17,510, but EU applicants dropped by 19 per cent to 5,220. 

‘Students aim high’

Clare Marchant, the chief executive of Ucas, said: “It’s great news to see students aim high and aspire to a future beyond the current limits of Covid with their choices for next year.” 

The main deadline for university applications is 15 January 2021. 

The figures from Ucas came as a survey found the majority of young people who applied to university this year think it would be fairer to overhaul the system so students only submit an application once they have their final grades. 

Post qualification applications

The research from the Sutton Trust social mobility found that working-class applicants were more likely to say they would have applied to a more selective university if they had known their A-level results when making decisions. 

Two in three (66 per cent) of university applicants said they favour a move to a post-qualification applications (PQA) system rather than university offers based on predicted grades. 

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “The utter chaos of this year’s university admissions exposed major flaws with the system that are due principally to our reliance on predicted grades. Two thirds of young people support PQA which allows both them and universities to make decisions based on actual grades. It’s as if applicants have real currency in their possession, rather than counterfeit currency as is now the case. 

“PQA would benefit high achieving low income students as their grades are often underpredicted. PQA would also result in admissions becoming more efficient, simpler and fairer for all students.” 

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