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UCAS figures for accepted applicants (Scottish students and institutions): early trends

August 9, 2014

UCAS has published its initial figures for the number of students placed in higher education following the announcement of Scottish Highers results earlier this week. The figures provided by UCAS are for all Scots anywhere in the UK, all students in Scotland from anywhere and Scots in Scotland.  From these can be extracted the separate figures for non-Scots in Scotland and Scots in the rest of the UK.

It’s important to stress that at this point in the cycle last year, only around three-quarters of students had been placed.  Plenty can still happen.  However, there’s an interesting trend apparent at least for now in the acceptance figures.

Amongst the groups for which we have data, the largest growth in accepted applicants is among non-Scottish applicants to Scottish universities (+7.2%) and Scots to the rest of the UK (+6.0%), the two groups subject to fees capped at £9,000 pa (except for non-UK EU students, who are entitled to free tuition, and non-EU overseas, who can pay fees in excess of £9,000).  Scots in Scotland, who have free tuition, have increased by 4.4%.

Until the admissions cycle is complete, it can’t be said whether this pattern will hold and – as the table below shows – border crossers are much smaller in number than Scots in Scotland.  The Scots in Scotland figure could yet rise and the others fall.  At this point, it’s simply an interesting pattern to note, because it runs counter to what many would expect, and  would be worth looking at again when the final figures UCAS are available.

Some growth has been built into the Scottish system for this year, but there are in effect now no number controls on the recruitment of non-Scots to Scottish institutions (again, except for non-UK EU students, whose numbers are still controlled) and number controls in England are loosening, although still in place.  If this pattern does persist, one of the obvious questions would be how far tighter number controls for Scots (and non-UK EUs) in Scotland are having an influence.

It’s also possible that further growth in non-UK EU students receiving free tuition is contributing to the increase in non-Scots in Scotland, so some of the faster growth in that group could be attributable to the availability of free tuition for that group: the figures in their current form do not however allow that point to be looked at.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that a significant minority of Scottish HE applicants undertake HE courses (mainly HN) in FE colleges which do not use UCAS: this is a distinctive feature of Scottish HE, not found on the same scale in the rest of the UK.  So the UCAS data does not give a complete picture of the total change in numbers accepted into HE here.  It does though provide a reliable picture of what is happening at degree-level.

Technical note

The percentage change figures are not immediately obvious from the recent UCAS press notice.  However, they are straightforwardly calculated from the data in that notice and the equivalent one issued last year.  The table below shows the full figures.  Those in bold are in this year’s press notice, those in normal type in last year’s and those in italics have been calculated from these by the author.


2013 2014 % change total change
1 All in Scotland 28900 30350 5
2 Scots in UK 23430 24480 4 1050
3 Scots in Scotland 22770 23780 4.4
2 less 3 Scots in rUK 660 700 6.0
1 less 3 Non-Scots in Scotland 6130 6570 7.2



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