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Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) End of cycle data 2023

The 2023 end of cycle data shows applications and acceptances which can be broken down by age, gender, domicile, ethnicity, qualification type, subject and various measures of disadvantage. It allows comparisons between pre- and post-pandemic levels, as well as with 2022. UCAS also issued a news release highlighting the key data.

The full report can be found here.


  • The number of accepted UK applicants recording a disability increased by 34 per cent to 103,000 in 2023 compared to last year, and by 77 per cent compared to 2019
  • Reporting of a mental health condition rose to 36,000 this year compared to 22,000 last year (+64 per cent) and 16,000 in 2019 (+125 per cent)
  • The second highest number of UK 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds secured a place at university this year. A total of 31,590 UK 18-year-olds from POLAR4 Quintile 1 have been accepted – down from the record of 32,415 in 2022 (-2.5 per cent), but a significant increase on 26,535 in 2019 (+19 per cent)
  • Total acceptances dipped by 1.5 per cent to 554,465 – but this represented an increase compared with 541,240 in 2019 (+2.4 per cent)
  • For UK 18-year-olds, the drop was 2 per cent, with 271,735 acceptances, although against this was up from 241,515 in 2019 (+12.5 per cent - and a sign of the growing 18-year-old population). The only ethnicity to see a drop was white students
  • Overall international student acceptances fell by 3 per cent to 71,570, a decrease from 73,820 in 2022 (-3 per cent) and 76,905 in 2019 (-7 per cent)
  • Acceptances for international students from outside the EU fell by 2 per cent to 61,055, but is significantly up from 45,455 in 2019 (+34 per cent) 
  • The entry rate gap between the most (POLAR 4 Quintile 1) and least disadvantaged (POLAR 4 Quintile 5) students has slightly widened to 2.16 compared to 2.09 in 2022
  • The number of accepted mature students (aged 21 and above) is down – 146,560 compared to 152,490 in 2022 (-3.9 per cent), although this is an increase of 1 per cent on 2019
  • Of the 1,860 T Level applicants, 97 per cent received at least one offer. A total of 1,435 people with an achieved T Level have been placed at higher education, up from 405 last year
  • Applicants responded to a range of new questions on free school meal eligibility (60,410), having caring responsibilities (22,600), being estranged (11,295), having a parent in the UK armed forces (16,010), being a refugee or asylum seeker (7,300), having parental responsibilities (21,690) or being an armed forced veteran (1,030)


Implications for governance:

A key data set from the end of cycle figures, and one that is highlighted by UCAS in its press release, is the big jump in the number of applicants declaring a disability, and within that, the 64 per cent rise in the number sharing mental health conditions.

Universities have worked hard in recent years to support the growing number of students in this group, and to help them over the hurdle of the pandemic and its ongoing legacy.

Major investments have been made across the sector in improving mental health and wellbeing provision. Governors will want to be assured that staffing and resourcing are sufficient to deal with the challenges that could arise from potentially significant numbers of vulnerable undergraduates.

Acceptances from disadvantaged students are up by 19 per cent on 2019, although down slightly on last year. Extra support, whether it be academic, financial or emotional, may well be necessary for these students too.

The additional questions in the UCAS form provide context that enables universities and colleges to understand better the needs of individual applicants, making it more likely that they receive additional assistance such as bursaries, year-round accommodation, and mental health and disability support.

As Sander Kristel, UCAS interim chief executive, points out, there is “nothing worse than a student dropping out or not meeting their potential due to a university not being aware of an individual need that they could have been supported with.”

With universities being judged by the Office for Students (OfS) against the B3 conditions of continuation, completion and progression, ensuring students are supported has never been more important.

Subject data shows that education and teaching and design, and creative and performing arts saw the biggest year-on-year drop in acceptances. The former feeds into concerns about initial teacher training courses at some universities losing accreditation. The latter adds weight to arguments made across the sector that the Ebacc school measure, along with a narrative that downplays the arts in comparison to STEM, is having a negative impact on the pipeline of students. OfS figures meanwhile show a slight increase in medical students and a slight decrease in dental intakes this year.

UCAS shows that young people’s commitment to going to university continues to be strong. However, geopolitics, the economy and job market as well as rising living costs, have all played a role in influencing this year's cycle.

International student undergraduate numbers are down slightly, although acceptances for international students from outside the EU are still significantly up from the level in 2019 (+34 per cent). The recent downward tick will be of concern should it turn into a longer term trend, given how increasingly reliant universities are on the significant income stream from overseas students.

The picture on T-level progression to higher education looks positive, with 97 per cent of T-level students who applied getting at least one offer and acceptance numbers tripling to 1,400, as more T-level courses come on stream.

However, the government policy of removing funding from overlapping BTEC qualifications could be starting to have an impact with both the number of applicants and acceptances down on last year. Vice chancellors have expressed concern about the scrapping of many BTECs as the qualifications have provided a successful route for disadvantaged pupils, in particular, to get into university.

As the head of UCAS observed in the press release: “There is still work for those of us across the sector to do in closing the gap in participation for those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.”

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