According to recent data from the UK government, the number of student applicants to university has been on the decline. 

In a research paper published on the 21st February 2023 by the House of Commons (link below), it was revealed that applications to UCAS before the general 25th January deadline “were down by around 14,000 or 2.3% compared to the same point in the 2002 cycle”. Among these applicants, the number of home 18 year olds applying for university was “down by 1.8%”, the “first from this group since 2018”. The paper stated that “the application rate among home 18 year olds fell from 43.4% in 2022 to 41.5% in 2023”. 

So, why the decline in applicants to university? The first obvious answer is the financial aspect. With the impact from the cost-of-living crisis, it makes sense that many students will struggle to afford the costs of university. It is also becoming hard to find student accommodation with many flats turned into Airbnbs during the pandemic and student rents having “risen by 16% since 2018/19 and 61% since 2011/12”, according to MEL Research. 

We also have to factor in the impact of Brexit, which has contributed to a “7% decline in the number of EU applicants”, says Whatuni. Another unsurprising consideration is the fact that less people are applying to nursing courses. With the massive hits the NHS has been taking over the years, universities providing courses in nursing have seen a “23% decline” in applications (Whatuni). 

However, there has been a growing phenomenon over the years of people wanting to do apprenticeships instead of university courses. According to another research paper by the House of Commons in February, the number of people starting apprenticeship courses “increased in 2021/22 by 27,800, or 9%, from the number of starts in the previous academic year”. Again, the money factor seems to come into play here as the idea of earning money while also getting a qualification appeals to many students.

There also seems to be a fraction of A-level students who haven’t applied for any form of Higher Education and instead are entering the workforce as soon as they can. Instead of spending 3, 4, 5 or even 6 years in an education that leaves you in student debt, many young people are finding different ways of earning their living. With social media platforms increasingly becoming the grounds on which millionaires are being born, the average influencer can make “$2,970 (£2383.22) per month”, according to Hootsuite. With so many options available, students are now able to be more creative and innovative in their career choices and can shape out their futures based on what they enjoy.

All in all, this decrease in university applicants is nothing to be worried about, but it does show a growing shift in attitudes to Higher Education and reflects the massive social change that the UK has experienced these (somewhat turbulent) past 5 years or so.

Links to sources:

https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7857/CBP-7857.pdf 

https://melresearch.co.uk/mel-news/in-depth-report-on-the-cost-of-student-accommodation-launched/#:~:text=Student%20rents%20have%20risen%20by,from%20their%20own%20accommodation%20provision.

https://www.whatuni.com/advice/news/why-is-there-a-decline-in-university-applications/65817/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20latest%20UCAS,drop%20on%20last%20year's%20figures.

https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn06113/

https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-make-money-on-instagram/