A-level students’ offer rates for higher-tariff universities have fallen significantly, according to new data released by Ucas.
The proportion of applications leading to an offer at leading universities, including those in the Russell Group, has fallen from 60.5% in 2021 to 55.1% this year.
Clare Marchant, Ucas’ chief executive, said there were more applications in the system this year, with an upward trend in the number of 18-year-olds in the UK population coupled with “accelerated demand” caused by the pandemic.
“Whilst some courses and providers are competitive every year, it will undoubtedly be more competitive for some courses and providers in 2022,” she said in a blog published on Wednesday.
She added that 49% of teachers had told Ucas they were less confident that their students would get their first choice of university compared with previous years, while around two in five teachers expected their students to use the Clearing process.
Ms Marchant said that universities had responded to higher levels of demand by “exercising more restraint” when making offers, with some choosing to stabilise student numbers following a surge in the last two years.
“This reduced offer rate means fewer students that applied to higher tariff universities are holding four or more offers at high tariff universities compared to last year,” she said.
“Courses that have always been competitive are more so this year.”
She added that students from poorer backgrounds had been “least impacted” by the lower offer rates.
Offer rates for applicants from the most disadvantaged backgrounds had fallen the least – from 78.8% last year to 75.1%.
“However, the stark gap between the most and least advantaged persists, with an 18-year-old living in an advantaged area being 2.86 times as likely to hold a firm choice as their counterpart in a disadvantaged area,” she added.