More students without university places after exams return

School leaders have demanded better-funded careers advice after official figures showed an uptick in the number of university applicants still without a place a month after results day.

Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service shows 41,240 18-year-olds from England, Wales and Northern Ireland were still “free to be placed in clearing” as of September 15.

According to UCAS, this means they applied before June 30, but were not placed or holding an offer a month after A-level results day.

At the same point last year, 30,350 students were in the same position. This year’s figure represents a 35.9 per cent increase on 2021, and the highest level in at least 10 years.

A heads’ union warned the figures showed the impact of “severe disruption” during the pandemic.

But UCAS pointed to an increase in applications overall, and said the figures included around 12,000 students who have since found alternative places.

However, the remaining 29,000 students “either withdrew from or did not respond to an offer made during the main cycle”.

University applicants ‘hit by the effects of the pandemic’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, said many of those without places were “young people who have been hit by the effects of the pandemic which has caused severe disruption to their education over the past two years”.


“Too many young people appear to have been let down by a higher education system which should have done better for them.”

Writing for Wonkhe Today, UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said the students “had options available to them but, as consumers, chose not to follow this pathway”.

“This may be due to a change of mind or not securing the offer they wanted. Each cycle, 60,000 – 70,000 students, half of which are aged 19, reapply the following cycle – and our survey data suggests that next cycle some of these students will contribute to that.”

She added that choice “continues to exist” for students “whether they wish to find a place in clearing, apply next year or change pathways towards an apprenticeship – which is as expected and a feature of every cycle”.

Growing numbers will put ‘ever-more pressure’ on uni places

The number of applicants has risen every year since 2018, but that rise has steepened in recent years.

This year, applications from 18-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland increased from around 289,000 to over 303,000. There were 18 per cent more applications this year than in 2019.

The 18-year-old population is expected to grow over the next few years, and Barton said this was “likely to put ever-more pressure on university places, particularly for the most selective universities and courses”.

He called for more government investment in independent careers advice and “information which schools and colleges can draw upon to help their students identify and secure the choices which best suit their needs”.

Although a “record number” of UK 18-year-olds secured a place at university or college after sitting exams, the entry rate 28 days after results day was 37.3 per cent, lower than the 37.9 per cent seen at the same point last year. after teachers assessed grades.

However, this is still “notably higher” than the 33.8 per cent seen in 2019.


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