Record number of school leavers apply for a place at university despite the impact of social distancing on college life

  • Admissions service UCAS says 40.5 per cent of all UK 18-year-olds have applied 
  • Found by June 30, 281,980 school leavers were looking for university places 
  • There had been concern school leavers would be put off university this year 

School leavers have applied in record numbers to start university this autumn despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Admissions service Ucas says a record 40.5 per cent of all UK 18-year-olds have applied, despite fears over the impact of social distancing on college life.

By June 30, 281,980 school leavers were looking for places, a small rise from 275,520 last year despite a reduction in the population aged 18.

The university admissions service UCAS has found that a record 40.5 per cent of all UK 18-year-olds have applied to start university this autumn, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. (Stock image)

There had been concern that young people would be put off higher education this year after institutions moved towards a mix of online and face-to-face classes. 

Some are considering making students live in a ‘bubble’ with people on the same courses to limit social mixing, while others are planning virtual freshers’ week events.

The data also reveals that a quarter (25.4 per cent) of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have applied to university or college. 

And the number of new nursing applicants between January and June was 63 per cent higher than the same period last year – leaping from 7,880 to 12,840.

There had previously been concern that school leavers would be put off higher education this year due to the coronavirus crisis. (Stock image)

Nick Hillman of the Higher Education Policy Institute said: ‘The appetite for higher education continues to grow –and it’s not surprising, given that the alternative options, like finding a secure job, will be worse this year.’

However, would-be students can ask to defer their studies at any point in the application cycle and if there is a second wave of Covid-19 or more local lockdowns in the months to come, then the number of actual enrolments may yet plummet.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said the figures were ‘very encouraging’ but the situation was ‘fragile’.

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