UCAS data cause for assurance in value of Scottish higher education

New data released by the university admissions service UCAS serves as a cause for optimism in the Scottish higher education sector. The January Equal Consideration Deadline 2021 data, published by UCAS on Thursday 18 February, show:

  • Positive widening access statistics. Continued increase in applicants from the most disadvantaged background with a 15% increase (1,100 people) in the number of applicants. 21.1% of 18-year-olds from SIMD20 backgrounds are applying to university, demonstrating that efforts to widen access are encouraging people of all backgrounds to apply.
  • The strong appeal of Scottish higher education both at home and abroad. The application rate for Scottish students has increased by 3.9pp to 35.8%, with a 16% increase in the number of 18-year-old Scottish domiciled students applying to university. Applications from outside the EU have increased 27% to 6,100, the highest increase across the four nations of the UK*.
  • Fall in EU numbers not as dramatic as expected. The number of EU applications dropped by 6,900 (40%). This is a similar rate to both England and Wales. This is the first cohort of EU students who would not be entitled to free tuition. A fall in EU student numbers was anticipated and it is not clear what impact this will have on some universities and some subjects.

Commenting on the results, Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland said:

Application data at this point in the cycle gives an indication about the demand for higher education, and it looks assuring for Scottish universities. Students clearly see a value at studying in Scotland from across the world all the way to our most deprived areas.

“We are taking nothing for granted as applications don’t necessarily transfer into acceptances especially when there is a great deal of volatility regarding students and the pandemic.

“The drop in EU student numbers is not as dramatic as many feared although we don’t know how this will impact individual universities and courses. This makes the need for scholarships for EU students from the Scottish Government even more vital.”

* Not all international students apply for university via UCAS.