Trends in university applications

Usually when you triple the cost of something, fewer people want to buy it; not so with university places, it seems, as the figures for applications through UCAS are published. When the drop in the number of 18 year olds in the population is taken into account, the decline in applications from UK-based 18 year olds is minimal. Given the concerns about the new fees putting people off – the protests and the talk about the benefits of sidestepping university and going straight into work – this is surprising. However, if you remember that the product (university) is still in short supply, with demand continuing to outstrip supply, then it is perhaps less surprising. The trends within individual subject choices are predictable: medical-related courses show a less steep decline than creative arts and design (although this category remains the third most popular one). Unpicking the statistics further, the most unexpected feature is that the cost has had the least effect on the rate of applications from the poorest students. Interesting to look further at the increases and decreases of specific universities. For example, Glasgow‘s charm offensive south of the border may be paying dividends – up 11% and one of the very few to buck the trend. Final thought is an imponderable: what will happen when next year some of the stronger universities start taking the government up on its offer of expanding in order to accommodate AAB candidates? Add in the cuts that universities are currently making to some departments, especially in the Arts, and you have a complex, mobile situation.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music school. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.