London Higher response to the UCAS End of Cycle Sector Level Data

On health-related data, Jolanta Edwards, Director of Strategy at London Higher said:  

“The sharp decline in applications to health and social care courses and nursing courses (down 16.7% and 11% respectively) is bad news for a government keen to see more students enrolling in healthcare disciplines to meet targets set out in the NHS Workforce Plan. This is also especially worrying news for London; a region which already has more vacant nursing positions than any other part of the UK and, simultaneously, the largest population in need of medical care. 

Earlier this month, London Higher launched the #StudyNursingLondon campaign in response to the trend in falling numbers, but more needs to be done if these figures are to be reversed, especially in London which faces a significantly higher cost of living. We therefore look to government to help us incentivise people to enter the nursing profession, through measures such as bursaries and the writing-off of loans in exchange for reasonable service.” 

On international student-related data, Dr Diana Beech, Chief Executive Officer at London Higher said: 

“The slight decline in applications from international students to UK universities (down 3% from last year) suggests the UK higher education brand is facing growing global competition. The added issue we face now is converting these applications into enrolments, especially following the government’s latest round of measures to control immigration, including raising the health surcharge and removing the right to bring dependents for all but postgraduate research students. These are factors which could prompt applicants to reconsider their study options in early 2024 and leave UK institutions on a financial cliff edge should student enrolments suddenly fall.  

The conversion of international applications into admissions next year will be vital for a sector experiencing a double-whammy of diminishing income from frozen domestic fee levels and a worrying decline in interest from home students, with the latest figures suggesting that many, especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, may be putting their educational ambitions on hold while the cost-of-living crisis continues. We therefore urge policymakers to recognise the importance of international students to the sustainability of higher education across the UK and reconsider policies that undermine our openness to global talent.” 

On widening participation-related data, Emily Dixon, Senior Research and Content Officer at London Higher said: 

“The situation for widening participation this year is complicated and will require deeper scrutiny once provider-level data is released early next year. We are excited to see the new indicators that have been added to the dashboards this year and we look forward to seeing trends become apparent over the next few years of data. The new measures, including free school meals eligibility status and estrangement among others, will provide more detailed and granular insight and help provide an evidence base for urgent and valuable widening participation work. 

This year’s widening of the entry gap between the most and least disadvantaged learners according to POLAR 4 quintiles is small but concerning, as is the decrease in acceptances for mature students. Some of this change is likely related to trends from the peak years of the Covid-19 pandemic fading, but the sector must keep working to narrow gaps and address risks to inequalities of opportunity in access to higher education. In London, as in many other areas of the country, the rate of participation in higher education has fallen from last year but Londoners continue to demonstrate a strong desire for higher education. We ask the Government to continue to fund and recognize the importance of widening access initiatives and the excellent work taking place in our schools and communities.”