Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 116

Supplementary submission from UCAS (Universities Central Council on Admissions)



  The number of applicants for 2009 entry in the main undergraduate scheme operated by UCAS, ie that for full-time, undergraduate students, stood at 567,840 on 8 June compared with 519,902 at the same point for the 2008 entry cycle. This represents an increase of 9.3% across the UK; for England only the figures are 522,550/477,324 respectively and an increase of 9.5%.

This constitutes a significant increase in applications, and growth which is very much higher than the year on year trends evidenced over the last ten years. This needs to be considered against a backdrop of an effective cap on further growth of student intake numbers for England imposed by government via HEFCE.

HEFCE has informed us that, in practice, for 2009 additional student numbers in respect of full-time, under-graduate, programmes translate into the number of last year's intake (around 419,000), plus an additional 3,000 places (ie an increase of less than 1% compared to the intake for 2008 entry). These figures suggest that there will be a projected reduction in places available during Clearing for 2009 entry (<18,000 places compared with c 44,000 last year) of >25,000. UCAS has been monitoring the situation carefully and has determined that although there is some evidence of management of the position by HEIs in that the rate of offer-making has only increased by around 5.5%, applicants are accepting offers at a similar rate to that evidenced for 2008 entry. Offers are not, in general, markedly higher than those made last year.

  In addition to the above, a new procedure, initiated by the Delivery Partnership Steering Group, and named the "Adjustment Period", has been introduced for Confirmation and Clearing 2009. This provides applicants who meet and exceed the conditions of their firm choice to have the opportunity to reconsider their choice and make a fresh application based on their higher level of achievement. In consulting about this change the Delivery Partnership determined that less than 1,000 applicants would be eligible to use this new service; however, analysis by UCAS suggests that, while in theory, this figure could be as high as around 50,000 a figure of 4,000 is more likely based on those who, last cycle, declined unconditional offers and entered Clearing. Of course, it is impossible to predict with any complete certainty the behaviour of a different group of students encountering a new procedure.

  All the above suggests a rather more uncertain situation for Confirmation and Clearing 2009 in comparison with recent years. There are likely to be disappointed applicants who are unable to find a place in Clearing, and any space for allowing for Adjustment may be even more narrow than the somewhat cautious view adopted at the beginning of the cycle.

  In the light of these uncertainties UCAS has taken measures to strengthen its technical and operational infrastructure and is working with its member institutions to ensure the provision of comprehensive information.

June 2009

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