Universities and admissions leaders encourage students to be ambitious with their 2021 applications

​Students applying for degree courses that start in autumn 2021 should be ambitious with their choices, following no substantial rise in deferrals in 2020, with universities ready to be flexible when considering applications. 

The number of UK students choosing to delay beginning their course for a year increased by just 0.1% (to 5.8%) in 2020. This means universities have the capacity to welcome applicants wanting to start in 2021, with opportunities ranging from degree programmes to higher and degree apprenticeships. Universities will expand capacity on some courses to meet growing demand, where possible.

UCAS has this year improved the ability for teachers to provide more details on their students' backgrounds, allowing universities and colleges to get a fuller picture of an individual. This follows an increase in students from disadvantaged backgrounds being accepted onto courses beginning in 2020.

Insight from recent UCAS surveys suggests young people want more online information than in previous years to make their choices, and are particularly interested in graduate employment rates to 'recession-proof' their degrees. They are also less interested in staying at home to study. Overall, students are positive about applying to study at university in 2021. 

The encouraging news comes ahead of this year's deadline for applications to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, plus medicine, dentistry, and veterinary courses on Thursday 15 October. The deadline for 'equal consideration' for all other courses is 15 January 2021, although anyone who applies for at least one course in October can keep researching and adding choices to their application (up to a maximum of five) after their initial submission. In recent years, nearly 6,000 people applying for a course with an October deadline added more choices before 15 January.

Clare Marchant and Alistair Jarvis, the Chief Executives of UCAS and Universities UK, will be sharing the latest updates to provide help and advice to applicants, teachers and parents as part of a special Facebook Live event, hosted by UCAS, on Tuesday 20 October at 4:30pm.

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive of UCAS, said: "UCAS and universities and colleges are already receiving applications for next autumn, with plenty of opportunities available. The key application deadlines remain the same, meaning the consistency and target dates that we know teachers value are retained in this exceptional year. As with all things, we keep everything under review as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives. By applying on time, students will be in a great position to receive offers, carry out further research, and secure a place on their chosen course. They will also have clear targets to work towards in their exams and coursework throughout the year.

"Everyone involved in admissions is alert to the ongoing challenges posed by coronavirus and flexibility will be key. Last year, students benefitted from more time to consider their offers, there was a welcome increase in students from disadvantaged background achieving a place, and some of the most competitive universities increased their overall intake of students.

"With no substantial rise in deferrals, many universities planning to raise their capacity, and teachers able to easily supply more relevant information, I encourage students to aim high as opportunities abound for them."

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "Choosing to study at university will open doors and provide value throughout your life. Despite the hugely challenging circumstances of this pandemic, students continue to show their resilience and determination and achieve excellent results at university, and I have no doubt that will continue.

"The application process continues to develop, with teachers able to provide more details on their students' background than ever before, and universities have taken steps to ensure that, while taking a blended teaching and learning approach, opportunities remain engaging and interactive.

"When choosing to apply, applicants should explore a range of options, speak to their parents, guardians and teachers, and get in to contact with university support teams to ask questions about the experience on offer. They are there to support you to make the choice that best suits you."



  1. UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is an independent charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. We manage almost three million applications, from around 700,000 people each year, for full-time undergraduate courses at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.
  2. Universities UK (UUK) is the collective voice of 139 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to create the conditions for UK universities to be the best in the world; maximising their positive impact locally, nationally and globally. Universities UK acts on behalf of universities, represented by their heads of institution. Visit: www.universitiesuk.ac.uk.



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