Belfast Telegraph

Drop in Northern Ireland students applying for university places


By Allan Preston

The number of Northern Ireland students applying to university has fallen - but remains higher than other UK regions, new figures show.

Just under half of 18 year olds (46.8%) have applied to start a full-time undergraduate course in September 2019 - down 0.7%.

Statistics from UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, showed 10,470 applicants from here compared to 11,020 last year.

One reason cited by UCAS is a 3.5% drop in the number of 18 year olds in the Northern Ireland population compared to 12 months previously.

Despite the slight drop in numbers, the proportion of students applying from here still remains considerably higher than other UK regions.

The 46.8% figure in NI compares to a record 38.8% of 18 year olds in England, while Scotland remained static at 32.5% and Wales had a slight increase of 0.2% from 32.2%.

Applicants from within the European Union increased by 1% to 43,980, while there was a record number of applicants from outside the EU - 63,690, up by 9%.

The gap between the most and least advantaged applicants also narrowed. Around a quarter of young people classified as living in the UK's most disadvantaged areas applied - a record of 23.2%.

This compares to over half (53.5%) of those in the most advantaged areas, a growth of 1%.

UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said: "In this time of uncertainty, it's welcome to see more EU and international students wanting to study in the UK. "Demand from UK 18-year-old students remains strong, despite the falling numbers of this age group in the population."

She added the unexpected spike in English applicants showed undergraduate education was still valued.

"However, interest in our apprenticeships hub and our insight research shows that almost a quarter of this age group is also considering an apprenticeship at the same time, and we can expect students to keep their options open."

The results are based on the most recent deadline admission of January 15, but students can still apply until June 30 and directly afterwards through the clearing process.

While the figures show an increased interest in the UK from foreign students, the threat of a no-deal Brexit has created uncertainty for many UK students.

The Erasmus+ programme was established by the European Commission and helps around 17,000 UK students study abroad each year.

Universities UK represents 136 institutions, and this week launched the #SupportStudyAbroad campaign to urge the government to guarantee funding for foreign study would continue.

Belfast Telegraph

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