UCAS Extra Begins
UCAS Extra used to be a lifeline for students, who either were yet to receive an offer after the mid-January deadline, or had a change of heart and declined the offers received. It was an opportunity to secure their university place before the rush of Clearing. At the end of 2018 cycle, UCAS reported the largest relative decrease of applicants accepted via Extra - by 21 per cent. The highest level of acceptances coming from this route was in 2011 (9,535) - prior to the increase of university fees. Last year that number stood at just 5,025 which is a near 47 per cent drop.
This significant decline can be explained by two other areas consistently and rapidly gaining in importance and numbers: unconditional offers and Direct Clearing.
In their End of Cycle report 2018, UCAS cite the high proportion of applicants being placed through their firm and insurance choices and leaving fewer applicants having the option to enter Extra, as the reason for acceptances during this period declining so dramatically across the last few years.
According to UCAS - 23 per cent of last year’s cohort were made at least one unconditional offer (that equals nearly 1 in 4 students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland). In 2016 that number was a little under 13 per cent and in 2013 it was just 1 per cent meaning the number of students with unconditional offers has risen from 2,500 five years ago to 58,000 last year.
This, in turn, is closely linked to the cap lifting on student numbers for individual institutions as well as an increase in tuition fees – both factors making the universities compete for every student even harder.
There is however a flip side to this situation reported by the Student Room at the end of 2018 cycle. With the increase in unconditional offers last year, TSR Community Team noticed the relative rise of students wanting to get out of their unconditional offers as they went through the run-up to Results Day. Direct to Clearing is continually gaining in popularity and acceptances via this route increased for the second year in a row, with the rise last year being 3.4 per cent (6 per cent more students than in 2017 applied directly into Clearing). The most recent Clearing was the most competitive it’s ever been – with the UK demographic dip and 16 of the 24 Russell Group universities having entered Clearing 2018 giving students more choice. No wonder there has been a 43 per cent increase in direct clearing acceptances since 2012 as students are increasingly more willing to delay their applications until the end of the cycle – making them ever more likely to secure their preferred university place.