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Another challenging admissions cycle ahead?

Another challenging admissions cycle ahead?

Our Director of Admissions Services Dave Parrott shares insights into the challenges for HEIs in the 2024 admissions cycle...

With all of the disruption brought about by the pandemic for university admissions staff, those working in this arena will be crying out for a return to a ‘normal’ cycle, but 2024 looks to be shaping up to be to be another difficult year with a myriad of challenges. Who will be the winners and losers?

With such a complex picture currently this is difficult to foresee, but one thing I’m confident of is that it will be those institutions that can pivot with agility and that prioritise their applicant experience at every step of their journey that stand the best chance. This is exactly where UniQuest Admissions and Conversion services can really add value and impact during difficult market conditions, as experienced recently by one of our UniQuest Admissions service partners:

"The UniQuest admissions tThe UniQuest admissions team have been fantastic to work with. Within 2.5 weeks of the January ECD our application to initial decision processing had increased over 430% vs the year prior, boosting offer holder engagement with upcoming open days that they would have otherwise missed. UniQuest admissions staff are wonderful to work with, commensurate professionals and their approach means that they truly feel like an extension of your existing team. If you’re in need of admissions resource/support, no matter how large or small, there really is no other option or better place to turn than UniQuest."


The January ECD data shows a small year-on-year decline for the second year running since 2022, and the sector’s operating in a fairly flat position this year. Whilst this suggests that demand for higher education amongst typical school leavers is still strong, there is reduced demand from mature applicants and differences at a subject level, all with the potential to influence the shape and size of the potential market for HEIs operating with different portfolios of provision and risk profiles. Currently mid and high tariff providers see small growth or operate relatively flat both overall and for UK and international domiciled applicants, whilst low tariff providers remained exposed, down -2% overall and for UK, and down -7% for international.

With January deadline numbers typically making up around 70% of all applicants of a cycle, the current position would suggest a closing position of around 780K for 2024 entry, which whilst in itself isn’t currently out of kilter with UCAS’ projections for forecasted numbers this year, the uneven spread of demand across provider groups as well as changing demand in subject areas does mean that the picture won’t be rosy for all. To add to the myriad of challenges, there has been a sharp exchange-rate driven decline from Nigeria which is -84% this year with India also down on last year -4%. Low and mid tariff providers typically dominate the majority of enrolments from these regions, with higher tariff providers taking the majority of enrolments from China, which is currently +3%, setting a seen of complex recruitment challenges in key markets.

International student choice in key anglophone higher education markets becomes increasingly difficult in this noisy and complex space where competition and stakes couldn’t be higher for those with a vested interest in supporting genuine international student mobility and enrolment. In the UK costs for international students have recently risen, whilst the right to bring dependents at Master’s study level has also been removed, and despite Canada and Australia offering more attractive post-study-work options, recent immigration policy changes pose new requirements and restrictions.

By Dave Parrott, Director of Admissions Services







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