Demand for prestigious Oxbridge courses falls in UK | This Week in Admission News

27 OCT 2022

The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week, demand for competitive degrees like medicine at Oxbridge has fallen for the first time in eight years. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!


Demand for prestigious Oxbridge courses in the UK falls for the first time in eight years

The number of aspiring students applying to Oxbridge and other prestigious degree programmes like medicine, has fallen for the first time in eight years, The Telegraph reported. Demand for such courses, which have an earlier application deadline than for other university degrees, has fallen by 3,720, or almost five per cent, to 74,090, according to figures published by Ucas, the university admissions service. 

Recently The Telegraph reported on which schools in the UK scored the most number of Oxbridge offers. Westminster School in Central London topped the list, followed by Raffles Junior College in Singapore, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Peter Symonds College and Brampton Manor Academy. These acceptance rates revealed the lower interest in prestigious courses. 

The number of Cambridge applicants has fallen by five per cent, which was driven by a seven per cent decline in demand from UK students. At Oxford, applications have declined by 2.6 per cent to 23,173. However, its decline has been driven by a drop in overseas and EU applications, which were down 6.4 percent and 12.2 percent respectively, whereas applications from UK students were up 0.4 per cent.

The early deadline for Oxbridge, medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses typically represents about 10 percent of applicants each year. Applications from UK 18-year-olds for those courses were down by 3.2 percent to 38,660. 

There could be several factors affecting these application rates, including rising living costs in the UK. Another issue could be the announcement by Ofqual to clamp down on grade inflation as the world comes out of the effects of the Covid pandemic. The Telegraph reported that exam grade boundaries will return to similar levels seen in 2019. Senior examiners will use the grades achieved by previous cohorts of pupils, along with previous attainment data, to inform their decisions about where to set grade boundaries. The decision means that the proportion of A and A* grades awarded at A level, which reached a record 44.8 percent in 202, and fell to 36.4 percent this year, should be closer to the 25.5 percent seen in 2019. For GCSEs, the proportion of top grades is expected to fall close to the 20.8 percent seen in 2019, down from a record 28.9 per cent in 2021 and 26.3 percent in 2022.

Kevin Gilmartin, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "It is worrying to see that the number of UK 18-year-olds applying for the most competitive university courses has fallen at a time when the 18-year-old population is increasing. 

"While this may partially reflect measures on grading standards which mean fewer students will achieve top A-level grades next year, it may also reflect the cost-of-living crisis which is impacting on households, particularly in terms of disadvantaged students."

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. The UK is the most popular destination for business studies, followed by the US, The PIE News reported. Of the 3,000 individuals surveyed for a Business of Branding study by CarringtonCrisp, in association with EFMD, 40% preferred the UK over any other country. Some 35% of respondents indicated the US as their most preferred study destination, with 26% opting for the EU, Canada and India both hit 19% and Australia and New Zealand were the preference for 17%.
  2. Canada and Germany retain the most international students five years after initial admission compared to other OECD countries, the organisation revealed in a new analysis. More than 60% of international students who obtained a study visa in 2015 for one of the 38 OECD countries were still present in Canada and Germany in 2020, while around half remained in Australia, Estonia and New Zealand. In contrast, less than 15% remained in Denmark, Slovenia, Italy and Norway. Over the past decade, nearly all OECD countries have introduced policies to incentivise international students to remain in their country of study but the success of these varies greatly.
  3. New FAFSA applications in the US for the 2022-23 academic year show a rise in the number of enrollments compared to the past few years, Forbes has reported. This is a positive sign following news that undergraduate enrollment had continued to decline over the past three years. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently reported undergraduate enrollment dropped 1.1% this fall, but the decline has slowed to pre-pandemic rates. So far, 25% more students have completed a FAFSA compared to the same period last year. A little more than 4% of high school seniors have submitted their financial aid applications at this point, so this is early data. 
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