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A-level results: mature student numbers fall again

Number of mature UK students accepted into higher education is lowest in a decade

The number of UK-based mature students accepted on higher education courses on A-level results day has fallen by more than 17 per cent in the past six years, official data show.

According to the admissions body Ucas, just 56,590 UK-domiciled students aged 21 or over had been accepted by higher education institutions by 8am on 18 August—down from 68,690 in 2016. Last year, just over 62,000 mature students were placed on courses, meaning the number has fallen by about 9 per cent in just one year.

The year-on-year decline was particularly prevalent in the 25-to-29-year-old age bracket, which saw numbers drop by 15 per cent to 11,700. The number of 21-to-24-year-olds accepted was also down significantly, dropping by 9 per cent to 25,250.

It means that the number of mature students accepted this year is at its lowest point for at least 10 years, with the Ucas website only providing data from the 2012-13 admissions cycle onwards. 

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, a think tank, said the decline could be partly because of the increasing number of 18-and-19-year-olds going to university, which means there are fewer potential students missing out on higher education first time around.

“There will be something in that, but I think there are other factors too,” he added. “In particular, political rhetoric​ may have backed mature learners but it is not clear that policy​ has really done so in recent years. Plus a strong labour market acts as a powerful disincentive to return to study.”