The new UCAS data for June 2023 presents a mixed picture for the sector. It is fantastic to see demand shifting with skills needs in the area of computing, which has seen a nine per cent increase for the 2023 cycle. However, close attention should be paid to the lower number of applications for Teaching and Education and medicine-allied courses, which have seen decreases of 14% and 9% respectively. While these declines should be understood in the context of higher-than-usual applications for key worker courses during the pandemic, applications for nursing in particular should be above rather than the same as pre-pandemic levels if the UK wants to grow its number of nurses. The drop in Teaching and Education course applications is also extremely concerning, especially as it comes after the Government has cut the number of accredited Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers following the ITT review last year. We urge the Government to consider the consequences of cutting the pipeline for teachers now before it’s too late.
London Higher welcomes the news that the sector has seen the second highest number of applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds on record this year. Additionally, according to UCAS’ survey, an increased proportion of these applicants feel that HE is ‘right for them’. Now, we must work together as a sector to continue to empower applicants by providing choice, information and guidance. Given London’s importance to meeting the UK’s international education ambitions, we are also delighted to see that the UK continues to be the destination of choice for international students, with a similar number of applications for this cycle when compared to previous years. It is also heartening to see that applicants are not being dissuaded from applying by the cost-of-living crisis. However, it is worth noting that applicants are expecting to work during their degree more than in previous years, and are also seeking more information from providers on both the financial reality of being a student and the support that is available to them. Providers should both consider the effect that these additional working hours may have on their students and do the best they can to provide accurate information on the effects of the cost-of-living and the support that is available at their institution.
Commenting on this data, Dr Diana Beech, Chief Executive Officer of London Higher said:
“With the global cost of living crisis continuing, it is reassuring that demand for higher education remains strong and shows that more and more young people, including those from the most disadvantaged parts of our society, see going to university as the best way of shaping their futures and securing their chosen careers.
While it is pleasing to see applications to courses in Computing and Environmental Studies on the rise as universities up and down the country prepare the future workforce with the skills to embrace AI and tackle climate change, it is concerning that the post-pandemic appeal of Education and Teaching and subjects allied to Medicine appears to be on the wane.
London’s higher education sector is home to the highest concentration of world-leading medical schools and universities educating almost 50,000 essential workers each year. For London to continue to play its role in powering the UK’s public sector, it is imperative that the Government empowers London’s institutions by awarding them with the ITT accreditation and medical school places they deserve.”