Scenarios for Starting University in September | UCAS x YouthSight

HE Thinking | 12 May 2020

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As time in lockdown moves forward and the Government announces the UK's roadmap to easing lockdown, applicants' views are beginning to shift as the reality of what it will mean to start university begins to hit home. 

In the latest webinar commissioned by our client at UCAS, we explore the scenarios of starting university in September and the implications this will have on applicants' feelings and decisions. 

Managing Director at YouthSight, Josephine Hansom explains that many applicants are feeling worried that they will not get the full university experience (missing out on freshers week and losing out on the opportunity to meet new people and make friends); while also feeling conflicted about online learning and studying from home. 

Our applicant tracker shows that nearly half (48%) of applicants are less confident about going to university since the outbreak. This has increased by 10% since our previous webinar (20th April) when just 38% stated this to be true. More applicants are now considering deferring a year or studying at an institute closer to home.

The research also showed that only 34% had attended a virtual open day despite one in four stating that they were 'useful and crucial to their decision-making'. UCAS's Head of Insight and Consultancy, Sarah Barr Miller, advised that now is the time for HEIs to encourage applicants to make important choices and begin planning for university. Virtual open days are being underused by prospective students, but  ensuring the virtual tour is easy to find on your website will encourage more to attend.

When considering scenarios of starting university, the majority of applicants (52%) stated that they would prefer to attend university with social distancing measures in place rather than delaying the start date or beginning term through distance learning. And of those who would prefer to begin studying from home were more likely to defer or decide not to go to university.  

UCAS recommends that to engage applicants, HE professionals must be creative with their offers. Applicants are worried they will miss out on experience, so thinking outside the box and giving them something to be excited about will resonate with them at this time. 

Key Stats:

  • 48% of applicants are less confident about going to university and 15% are worried that they will miss out on the 'real experience'
  • 45% are thinking about changing their decisions
  • 19% are thinking about sitting their exams in the autumn
  • 19% are thinking about deferring for a year
  • 34% of applicants attended a virtual open day; 27% said they were useful and crucial to their decision-making, 64% said they were useful but not influential and 9% said they were poor and unhelpful
  • 52% would prefer to start university with social distancing, 29% want to delay until social distancing is over and 19% want to begin by studying from home
  • 70% would be happy to go along with their preferred start date/scenario and not change their plans

Webinar Series 

We partnered with our client at UCAS to bring this series of free insights to support HE professionals through these different times. The series will guide you through how your UG, PGT and prospective students are feeling throughout the crisis and what they are looking for from those around them.

And great news if you are enjoying this series of free webinars... UCAS have commissioned another four waves of research with us! So there'll be plenty more insight coming your way soon! 

Click below to register for the next webinar or to view the full schedule.

Register / Watch Webinars >


Watch the webinars on demand:

Webinar 3: Thinking about September

How has applicants' view shifted now that start dates are beginning to near?

Watch > 


Webinar 2: Awarding Grades

The second look at our applicant mood tracking data focusing how the grade system has impacted choice.

Watch >


Webinar 1: Getting A Place

Read our latest HE Research Snippet which investigates the future of international recruitment beyond the COVID-19 crisis. 

Watch >


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