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Record number of students accepted on university degree courses amid pandemic

By Eleanor Busby, PA Education Correspondent

A record number of students have been accepted on to UK degree courses this year, Ucas figures show.

A total of 435,430 people, from the UK and overseas, have had places confirmed, up 5% on the same point last year, according to data published by the university admissions service.

Among UK applicants, 388,230 have been accepted – an 8% rise compared with results day last year.

A record 395,770 students have also been accepted on to their first choice of full-time course in the UK, up 8% from 365,500 at the same point in 2020.

The figures come on the day that students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their A-level results, and students across Scotland are receiving their Highers results.

The Ucas data shows that 245,330 18-year-olds from across the UK have been accepted onto degree courses, up 17% on the same point last year.

More than a third (34.1%) of British 18-year-olds have taken up places, up from 30.2% in 2020.

The data also shows a record 20.7% of all British 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK have an undergraduate place.

However, as yet there has been no progress in closing the gap to students from the most advantaged areas, with 48.4% accepted, Ucas said.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said: “Universities have been flexible with their decisions to accommodate as many students as possible onto their first choice of course.

“Over the following days and weeks, we’re ready to help anyone without a place find the opportunity that’s right for them in clearing.”

She added: “After around a decade of widening participation progress, albeit slow, it is disappointing to see it stall, though this should be seen in light of record numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds being accepted.”

Overall, the total number of students accepted on to nursing courses has increased by 8% to 26,730.

Meanwhile, the figures show that 8,560 students from England have been accepted onto medicine and dentistry courses, up 23% from 6,960 on results day 2020.

Last week, the Medical Schools Council (MSC), which represents 44 heads of medical schools across the UK, warned that some schools may still struggle to increase the number of students they admit despite the announcement that medicine and dentistry schools will receive funding to expand courses.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK (UUK), said: “We are delighted to see that record numbers of applicants have had their places at university confirmed today, after what has been an exceptionally challenging year.

“For those who haven’t got the grades they hoped, admissions teams are ready to help everyone with the potential to succeed at university find a place, and will take this year’s circumstances into account when making decisions.”

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