Top university courses are becoming more desirable for disadvantaged students.

One of our writers discusses that students from more disadvantaged backgrounds are applying to top university courses.

Sarah Myles
22nd November 2023
Image credit: Flickr
Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has revealed that record breaking numbers of 18-year-old students from disadvantaged areas are applying to top universities and courses for the upcoming academic year in 2024. These include Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, and courses including dentistry, medicine and veterinary sciences. 

Each of these courses have October deadlines as opposed to January, and UCAS has clarified that the number of October applicants from under-represented areas have risen by 7%, which is very “encouraging”, states UCAS. 

The number of October applicants from under-represented areas have risen by 7%, which is very “encouraging”

The measure splits students into five groups based on the number of students which go into higher education aged 18 to 19. It reveals that the most disadvantaged students are 18-year-olds applying from areas in which the fewest number of young people go to university. Since last year, this has risen by 7%. Evidently, there has been an increase from 2950 disadvantaged applicants in 2023 to 3160 for 2024. 

On the contrary, the most advantaged areas in the country have seen a rise in applications by only 2%, however, the rise in total number of applications has nevertheless resulted in five times the number of advantaged applicants compared to disadvantaged areas, with 17,080 in total this year. 

The founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, Peter Lampl has said that while the increase in applications from disadvantaged UK students was “encouraging”, the advantage gap has “hardly shifted”. He added that students from under-represented areas still face an “uphill struggle” once arriving at university. This is because “they have to borrow more than well-off students just to live on, resulting in them graduating with higher levels of debt, which is both shameful and hugely unfair.” Previous research has found that this results in students “skipping meals as well as working sometimes full-time hours.”

This discrepancy between UCAS data and Sutton Trust research may have risen from poorly represented surveys, due to these findings being extracted from measures conducted by local areas in the UK, regarding where students are applying for university.  

Further UCAS analysis of October applications reveal that the number of UK applicants receiving free school meals (FSM) has risen by 6%, in accordance with the total rising number of FSM pupils in England. 

The number of UK applicants receiving free school meals (FSM) has risen by 6%

The total number of UK 19-year-old applicants has fallen by 18% year-on-year, dropping from 6,770 to 5,580 this year. 

Moreover, there has been a 7% drop year-on-year regarding the number of 18-year-olds applying for medicine degrees. 

The total number of international applicants, ranging in ages, have seen a slight drop from 20,970 to 20,850.

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