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UCAS September data: further analysis – capping matters

September 23, 2014

Further to this post, more analysis of the detailed data tables provided by UCAS as part of its 23 September publication here. While there is likely to be some further growth in absolute numbers over the next few weeks, UCAS is comparing the situation now with that at the same point last year, so the scope for any significant change  in the percentage  figures below is limited.

From a Scottish perspective, two striking points are the slower growth this year of Scottish-domiciled entrants in UK terms (1.8% against a 3.6% UK average) and that Scottish-domiciled students are now by some margin the slowest-growing group within Scottish institutions, as measured by UCAS, at the same time as the number of Scottish students going south has fallen.

Some of the growth in other parts of the UK is catching up after the large fall in England in 2012.  However, that is not true for Wales or Northern Ireland.  Indeed, even the English figure for 2011 entrants is something of an artificial starting point, boosted as it was by fewer students than usual choosing to defer entry for a year.  It’s probably about time some stock-taking was done on how well the Scottish system is meeting demand, not least if, as seems likely, the full analysis available around the turn of the year shows that the acceptance rate in the Scotland this year remains below where it was for much of the last decade, as well as below that in England or Wales.

Moreover, though this new data set does not provide any information on widening access, the figures published last month did not show Scotland performing particularly strongly on that score (see earlier post).  The link between growth and improved access, strongly suggested by the various figures now emerging for Wales, merits attention, too.

Change by domicile

By student domicile, the year on year change in entrants (ie all those starting a course, whether recently accepted or deferred entry from last year) from different parts of the UK is:

3.8%   England

-0.6%  Northern Ireland

1.8%   Scotland     (+2.0% Scots in Scotland; -1.2% in rest of UK)

5.2%   Wales

(3.6%  All UK domiciles)

The two groups of students with the slowest growth are also the ones most affected by the capping of in-country places ie those domiciled in Northern Ireland and Scotland, which in both cases have no or a lower fee in-country, but no portability of fee funding.

The growth in Welsh numbers is driven substantially by larger numbers going to England, rather than expansion in Wales, although Welsh institutions are still seeing an increase of 3% in total.  The more detailed figures (see foot of post) also show particularly sharp percentage rises in the number of English students going to Northern Ireland, albeit from a low base, as well as an 11% increase in English students going to Scotland.  Neither Northern Ireland nor Scotland apply number controls to rest-of-UK students.

Consistent with earlier figures, these figures suggest that how tightly numbers are capped has a large impact on growth.  That’s not surprising, but it’s a point which has received little attention relative to tuition fee policy in recent years in Scotland.

In Scotland

The increases for different groups of students are

2.0%  Scottish domiciled   (+560)

8.1%  Rest of UK (+430)

5.1%  EU (non-UK)  (+210)

6.5%  Overseas (non-EU)   (+220)

(3.6%  all students)  (+1420)

This means that total growth in new entrants to Scottish higher education institutions this year is split 55/45% between those potentially entitled to free tuition and students paying substantial fees, ie:

39%  Scottish domiciled (free tuition)

15%   non-UK EU national (free tuition)

30%  Rest of UK (fees allowed up to £9000)

15%   Overseas non-EU (full fees)

In absolute numbers, Scottish domiciled students continue to be the largest single group, accounting for 68% of new entrants through UCAS.  Still, almost 1 in 5 entrants (19%) are high fee payers this year, making this group a substantial minority of the cohort.

It’s worth remembering that not all Scottish-domiciled undergraduate students will receive free tuition in practice, the likeliest reason for ineligibility being that they have already received several years funding for a previous course, successfully completed or otherwise.  These students will be liable for a fee of £1820 if studying for a degree, which they will normally need to fund upfront without any support from the state either as grant or loan.  It is not clear how many such students there are in the Scottish system, or what proportion of UCAS applicants they represent.

Change since 2011

UCAS provides figures going back to 2011.  Scotland performs better relative to the UK average over that period. However, for the reason noted above this is a problematic comparison point for England.  With that caveat in mind, and bearing in mind that fee levels in Wales and Northern Ireland have been held steady over the period, the change by domicile since 2011 is:

-1.5%  England

2.4%  Northern ireland

3.5% Scotland

7.3% Wales

(-0.6% UK average)

To give an idea of the sensitivity of the figure for England to increased non-deferral in 2011, removing 20,000 from the actual 2011 figure would be enough to turn the fall shown above into a 4% rise, and removing just 10,000 would still give an increase of 1.2%.  These figures bring out the particularly strong  growth in Wales over the period, which has also performed well in recent years on widening access, as discussed here.

Further figures

The table below shows the numbers entering HE through UCAS each year since 2011 by domicile  and, within each domicile group, by location of institution, drawing on the detailed data table published alongside the UCAS report, linked above.

Some figures above are shown here, others have been calculated using data shown below, and those involving overseas students have been calculated direct from the main UCAS tables, linked above.

Yr-on-yr change
Eng dom 2011 2012 2013 2014 %
Institution E 361,070 311,630 343,010 355,570 3.7
NI 270 250 260 500 92.3
S 3410 3830 4180 4640 11.0
W 12030 9180 10300 10590 2.8
All 376,780 324,890 357,750 371,300 3.8
NI dom
Institution E 4020 3180 3430 3480 1.5
NI 8750 8980 9920 9820 -1.0
S 1120 910 1020 990 -2.9
W 210 150 150 150 0.0
All 14100 13220 14520 14440 -0.6
Scot dom
Institution E 1800 1400 1540 1530 -0.6
NI 20 30 20 10 -50.0
S 27230 27550 27970 28530 2.0
W 70 50 60 60 0.0
All 29120 29030 29590 30130 1.8
W dom
Institution E 6640 7200 7380 8040 8.9
NI 10 0 10 10 0.0
S 90 120 110 110 0.0
W 11490 11230 11090 11400 2.8
All 18230 18550 18590 19560 5.2
EU dom
Institution E 21240 17310 18680 20210 8.2
NI 460 440 440 450 2.3
S 4150 4280 4100 4310 5.1
W 990 930 980 1100 12.2
All 26840 22960 24200 26070 7.7

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