This article is more than 5 years old

Winners, losers and trends in the last recruitment cycle

The UCAS End of Cycle institutional data is out and we've been drilling down into the detail to find out who's been up or down and what other trends are at play.
This article is more than 5 years old

David Morris is the Vice Chancellor's policy adviser at the University of Greenwich and former Deputy Editor of Wonkhe. He writes in a personal capacity.

Today, UCAS has released the full institutional breakdown from the last recruitment cycle. There is a lot of data to look at in detail, and our early results are very illuminating: showing the clear ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ over the past five years.

We explored the key messages from the main End of Cycle report released before Christmas: Flatlines, Brexit and other lessons.

The crucial lesson from UCAS’s data on acceptances is that it is a measure of a university’s performance in the ‘core’, full-time domestic recruitment market for undergraduates over a single cycle. For our analysis, we have decided the pick the figures for 18-year-old entry, as this is the majority of that market and also its most competitive and volatile arena, where offers are made before exam results are known, and the pool of possible applicants is beginning to shrink.

The acceptances figure covers those applicants that have applied, been made an offer, made their grades, and in turn accepted that offer.

Universities might compensate for struggling in this market by looking to other markets that this data does not capture, such as the EU, international and postgraduates, as well as recruiting from more mature domestic applicants. Indeed, success in the ‘core’ undergraduate market may also be covering for failure in these alternative markets. There are any number of ways in which universities may seek to navigate new market challenges, and some are known to be in the process of controlled consolidation and rolling back of ‘core’ recruitment.

Below are the HEIs that grew acceptances significantly from 2012-15 and continued to do so in 2016 (18-year-olds only). Some institutions grew further just in the last year alone, but this followed several years of decline. The below continue a strong upwards trend, and so we can safely call them ‘winners’ in this context.

Table 1: HEIs that grew acceptances significantly from 2012-15 and continued to do so in 2016

Provider Name% increase in 18 y/o acceptances 2015-16
L34 University of Leicester22%
C60 City University London21%
N21 Newcastle University19%
S85 University of Surrey18%
G56 Goldsmiths University of London18%
S36 University of St Andrews18%
M80 Middlesex University17%
S49 St Georges University of London17%
S93 Swansea University16%
L39 University of Lincoln15%
F33 Falmouth University14%
R12 University of Reading14%
Y50 University of York12%

The above shows an interesting range of ‘upper-middle’ tariff providers (or ‘lower-high’ if you prefer). These institutions currently feel confident expanding their domestic recruitment without damaging their average tariff too much, whereas the very highest tariff institutions feel they have expanded as much as they can without dropping their entry grades too low.

A number of these institutions are also expected to perform well in the TEF this year and so may see a further boost to their recruitment in the coming years, perhaps even at the expense of some higher tariff competitors.

On the flip side, the below institutions have now been struggling over a long period, and faced another extremely challenging cycle in 2016

Table 2: HEIs that reduced acceptances significantly from 2012-15 and continued to do so in 2016 (18-year-olds only)

Provider Name% reduction in 18 y/o  acceptances 2015-16
S84 University of Sunderland-26%
S30 Southampton Solent University-18%
L68 London Metropolitan University-14%
C99 University of Cumbria-13%
W75 University of Wolverhampton-12%
K84 Kingston University-9%
W05 The University of West London-8%
U40 University of the West of Scotland-7%
S72 Staffordshire University-6%
B22 University of Bedfordshire-5%

We see in the above list a large number of lower tariff, post-92 providers. We knew from the aggregate data released before Christmas that lower tariff providers were beginning to get squeezed, with slightly higher tariff providers beginning to eat into a new part of the market.

There are some institutions that have been doing particularly badly although there may be some planned reasons, for example, London Met has been deliberately shrinking its student intake to consolidate the institution.

However, if we look at the institution at the top of this list, and drill further into the data, a concerning picture emerges about the socio-economic makeup emerges. Placed applicant numbers are down across all POLAR quintiles and in the largest ethnic group: whites.

Table 3: Placed applicants (all ages) at the University of Sunderland by ethnic and socio-economic group

Asian ethnic group120335
Black ethnic group60180
White ethnic group23001655
POLAR3 Q1670630
POLAR3 Q2675525
POLAR3 Q3510500
POLAR3 Q4370325
POLAR3 Q5325240

It is notable that the change (where it exists) is slight across the five-year period – although the size of the institution has changed, the make-up of the institution has not (much), which means overall a net loss of POLAR Q1/2 students to the sector. But POLAR 1 and two has grown (slightly) across the sector over five years, which suggests that other institutions are succeeding where Sunderland is not. Instead, the university is being forced look to other markets not captured by this data: part-time, international, postgraduate, and clearing in particular.

There is much data to chew over and UCAS has which you can view in full here. We’ll continue to analyse it and post more results soon.

Table 3 in this article was amended on 10/02/2017 to correct initial errant data, which double counted some student numbers. 

One response to “Winners, losers and trends in the last recruitment cycle

  1. Analysis of the 18-year olds accepted – i.e. traditional school leavers – shows some stark changes. Aston has increased by 124% whilst at the other end of the spectrum London Met has dropped by 77%.

Leave a Reply