Welsh universities have seen an increase in applications this year, with a rise of 6% to over 128,000.
The data also shows a record proportion of 18-year-olds from Wales applying to UK universities in general. Applications reached a high of 33.6%, an increase of 0.7 percentage points.
The UCAS statistics which give an indication of demand for higher education were published today amid fears that applicants would be deterred from studying at British universities this year after institutions have moved towards a mix of online and face-to-face classes during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Despite the rise in applications, concerns remain that the rise in UK-based students could be offset by a fall in international students, and that students may get cold feet and decide to defer for a year if there is another rise in the number of coronavirus cases.
Wales’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams welcomed the figures, particularly the 2% rise in university applications by 18-year-olds from the most deprived areas of Wales.
The statistics showed that 21.6% of 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas of Wales applied up until the end of June, up from 19.4% last year.
“I’m delighted to see these statistics, which shows that the gap between applicants from the most and least deprived areas is narrowing,” Kirsty Williams said.
“As a Government, we believe that high-quality education is a driving force for social mobility, national prosperity and an engaged democracy.
“We’re opening up higher education to more people than ever, providing the most generous student support package in the UK. Wales is the only country in Europe which offers equivalent living costs support for undergraduate full-time, part-time and post-graduate students.”
The Welsh Government has reformed the student finance system in Wales in recent years, with a fundamental shift towards supporting students with their day-to-day living costs, and increased support through a mixture of grants and loans, she said.
“There has also been a significant 6% increase in applications to Welsh institutions,” Kirst Williams said. “
Welsh universities lead the way for student satisfaction and research and it’s great to see more and more students choosing our universities.”
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), said: “The appetite for higher education continues to grow – and it’s not surprising given that the alternative options, like finding a secure job, will be worse this year.
“However, we are not out of the woods because there is a difference between applying and enrolling. If, for example, there were a major second wave of the pandemic, then applications might not convert into enrolments.”
Clare Marchant, Ucas’ chief executive said that the situation was “fragile”.
“If a second spike occurred, and if we get more regional lockdowns, anything I say goes out the window because people’s confidence levels take a real dip.
“Confidence is building for an autumn term that safely captures the essence of the academic year’s traditional start as much as possible.
“We should celebrate seeing so many people keen to embark on a rewarding career in nursing. Inspirational stories throughout this pandemic have clearly sparked imaginations, with people from all walks of life applying, determined to help others at a time when our universities are making huge contributions to fighting coronavirus.”