Catch-up with the latest news and insights on education in the UK.


Universities and admissions leaders encourage students to be ambitious with their 2021 applications
Oct 2020

Students applying for degree courses that start in autumn 2021 should be ambitious with their choices, following no substantial rise in deferrals in 2020, with universities ready to be flexible when considering applications. 

The number of UK students choosing to delay beginning their course for a year increased by just 0.1% (to 5.8%) in 2020. This means universities have the capacity to welcome applicants wanting to start in 2021, with opportunities ranging from degree programmes to higher and degree apprenticeships. Universities will expand capacity on some courses to meet growing demand, where possible.

UCAS has this year improved the ability for teachers to provide more details on their students' backgrounds, allowing universities and colleges to get a fuller picture of an individual. This follows an increase in students from disadvantaged backgrounds being accepted onto courses beginning in 2020.

Insight from recent UCAS surveys suggests young people want more online information than in previous years to make their choices, and are particularly interested in graduate employment rates to 'recession-proof' their degrees. They are also less interested in staying at home to study. Overall, students are positive about applying to study at university in 2021. 

The encouraging news comes ahead of this year's deadline for applications to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, plus medicine, dentistry, and veterinary courses on Thursday 15 October. The deadline for 'equal consideration' for all other courses is 15 January 2021, although anyone who applies for at least one course in October can keep researching and adding choices to their application (up to a maximum of five) after their initial submission. In recent years, nearly 6,000 people applying for a course with an October deadline added more choices before 15 January.

Clare Marchant and Alistair Jarvis, the Chief Executives of UCAS and Universities UK, will be sharing the latest updates to provide help and advice to applicants, teachers and parents as part of a special Facebook Live event, hosted by UCAS, on Tuesday 20 October at 4:30pm.

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive of UCAS, said: "UCAS and universities and colleges are already receiving applications for next autumn, with plenty of opportunities available. The key application deadlines remain the same, meaning the consistency and target dates that we know teachers value are retained in this exceptional year. As with all things, we keep everything under review as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives. By applying on time, students will be in a great position to receive offers, carry out further research, and secure a place on their chosen course. They will also have clear targets to work towards in their exams and coursework throughout the year.

"Everyone involved in admissions is alert to the ongoing challenges posed by coronavirus and flexibility will be key. Last year, students benefitted from more time to consider their offers, there was a welcome increase in students from disadvantaged background achieving a place, and some of the most competitive universities increased their overall intake of students.

"With no substantial rise in deferrals, many universities planning to raise their capacity, and teachers able to easily supply more relevant information, I encourage students to aim high as opportunities abound for them."

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "Choosing to study at university will open doors and provide value throughout your life. Despite the hugely challenging circumstances of this pandemic, students continue to show their resilience and determination and achieve excellent results at university, and I have no doubt that will continue.

"The application process continues to develop, with teachers able to provide more details on their students' background than ever before, and universities have taken steps to ensure that, while taking a blended teaching and learning approach, opportunities remain engaging and interactive.

"When choosing to apply, applicants should explore a range of options, speak to their parents, guardians and teachers, and get in to contact with university support teams to ask questions about the experience on offer. They are there to support you to make the choice that best suits you."

Oct 2020

The University of Southampton has risen to 15th in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.

This ranking is in a table of 131 higher education establishments and Southampton has overtaken Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and York to improve on last years 21st place.

President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Mark E Smith, said ‘I am pleased to see our rise to 15th in the Good University Guide. For the second time this year we have shown the strongest rise in performance for those already in the top 20. I would like to thank colleagues for all of the hard work, dedication and excellence in our research, enterprise and education endeavours across the University which this result reflects. It is a great piece of news as we approach the new academic year.’

Included in the table are subject specific rankings of which Southampton was in the top 10 in 14 different areas: Civil Engineering (2nd); Subjects Allied to Medicine (2nd); Electrical and Electronic Engineering (3rd); German (3rd); Iberian Languages (4th); Music (4th); French (=6th); Mechanical Engineering (=6th); Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering (7th); Criminology (9th); Archaeology & Forensic Science (10th); Communication and Media Studies (10th); Geology (10th).

The Good University Guide is compiled using indicators of student satisfaction, research quality, graduate prospects, qualification levels of incoming students, student/staff ratios, services, facilities, degree completion rates and levels of social inclusion.

UK universities prepare to reopen amid updated COVID-19 guidance to limit gatherings
Oct 2020

LONDON: Universities across the UK are preparing to reopen for the start of the Autumn semester this month amid the updated COVID-19 government guidance, which limits large gatherings of more than six people across campuses.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Thursday that he wants students to be careful not to pass on coronavirus to more vulnerable groups of their parents and grandparents.

“If you are a student who is about to return to university or go to university for the first time, then please, for the sake of your education and your parents' and grandparents' health, follow the rules and don't gather in groups of more than six people,” Hancock said in a statement to Parliament.

“The Department for Education has published the updated guidance for universities on how they can operate in a COVID secure way. This includes a clear request not to send students home in the event of an outbreak in order to avoid spreading the virus across the country,” he said.

The first few weeks of what is the start of a new academic year in September is traditionally marked by freshers meets and gatherings.

However, this year there will be an effort to limit student numbers as much as possible in order to control the spread of coronavirus, as the number of cases in the country began to rise once again since last week.

Under the Department for Education guidelines, students with coronavirus symptoms are told to “self-isolate in their current accommodation” such as halls of residence.

All other residents in the same household must also isolate for 14 days, and be provided with support by their institution.

The guidance recommends the use of disciplinary measures in the event of student non-compliance, as well as suggestions to combat the spread of the virus such as “reducing the sizes of casts in drama” and considering if “some tuition in certain subjects can be conducted outside”.

Hancock's plea for caution in the Commons came alongside speeches by the UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, urging university staffers and students to follow the guidance to try and limit the spread of infections.

“Let's be honest, these months have been incredibly difficult, for everyone involved,” said Donelan.

“The next few months will be very different for you and I want to thank you for all the hard work that you have done to ensure that social distancing measures are introduced, plus blended learning and COVID-secure measures. We agree with you – it is absolutely imperative that both students and staff are kept safe,” she said in a speech to members of Universities UK, representing most of the UK's universities.

In his address to vice-chancellors, Williamson highlighted the extra funding being granted to universities as they struggle through the COVID-19 lockdown imposed in March.

The route, to apply to all overseas students including Indians from October 5, will mean students require a total of 70 points to be granted a visa to study at a UK university under the new points-based visa regime. They will achieve the required points if they can demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies in the UK. The UK Home Office says the new route will simplify the existing Tier 4 Student Visa application process.

UK:UWL announced as University of the Year for Student Experience
Oct 2020

The University of West London (UWL) is celebrating another outstanding performance after being named University of the Year for Student Experience in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.  
The accolade comes on the back of a year of success for the career-focused University that has seen it storm up the rankings and record impressively high levels of student satisfaction.  

 The award also reflects the University’s strong connection with business and industry across west London that has helped develop courses that create graduates with the skills employers are looking for.  

Professor Peter John, Vice-Chancellor at UWL, said:

This is a great achievement for UWL but it is only possible thanks to our students.  Our students are at the heart of everything we do and when they speak, we listen and take action.

Every day our students are demonstrating the talent, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that will help them go on to successful and rewarding careers. It is our students who will be helping the economy grow in the future and finding the solutions to our most pressing problems.

In recent years UWL has made significant investment into its facilities - creating modern teaching, sports, and socialising spaces to help all learners meet their potential. Students this year rated UWL the best university in London for overall satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2020.

UK universities recruit record numbers of international students
Sep 2020

UK universities are on course to recruit record numbers of international students during the global pandemic, defying predictions of financial disaster, the latest admissions figures reveal.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) said UK universities enjoyed a 9% increase in the number of undergraduate students from outside the UK and the EU starting their studies this autumn, rising to a new record total of 44,300.

The increase marks a remarkable turnaround from earlier this year, when vice-chancellors feared there would be a collapse in international student numbers and warned that a sector-wide financial crisis was likely to follow.

Universities redoubled their efforts to recruit students from overseas, and may have been helped by negative sentiment towards the US, where the virus remains unchecked in parts of the country, and while potential rivals in New Zealand and Australia remain closed to international students.

Ucas’s figures usually include fewer than half of the more than 100,000 international undergraduates coming to the UK, with the remainder and postgraduates applying directly to individual universities rather than through the admissions service.

Admissions officers have also been celebrating record numbers of first-year students coming from disadvantaged areas in the UK, with 22.5% of students from areas with the lowest educational attainment now continuing on into higher education.

The overall proportion of the UK’s 18-year-olds entering higher education will reach 36%, itself a new record. That will also come as a relief to many in higher education, after the bungled efforts to assess entry grades using statistical models to replace exams. In most cases the grades were replaced with school assessments, meaning more students are likely to have met entry requirements.

“Overall demand for higher education has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, and there are currently a record 515,650 students with a confirmed place, up 4% on last year,” Ucas said, noting that the increase followed three years of falling enrolments.

But the figures also show a drop in acceptances from new EU undergraduates, down 2% compared with 2019-20, to just under 30,000.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: “The data clearly tell a very positive story. It was always clear that domestic demand would be up, despite the reduction in 18-year olds, because the alternatives to more education are so poor this year.

“It was also always likely that EU numbers would be down, given the Brexit uncertainties and shenanigans. No one predicted such a big increase in non-EU international students and we have to wait to see if they will all actually arrive and then stay the course.

“But it is a great testament to the underlying strength of our higher education sector, as well as a reflection of the improved migration regime and rising geopolitical tensions between China and the US, that so many people still want to come and study at our fantastic institutions.”

Fears that a significant proportion of students would defer entry because of campus restrictions on socialising have not been borne out: the figures showed only a slight uptick in the proportion of deferrals, 5.7% compared with 5.4% in 2019.

Separately, the Student Loans Company said it had processed and distributed more than £1bn in maintenance loans to 414,877 students by this week, marking its biggest single payment date.

Cambridge ranked first in 2021 in Times University Guide
Sep 2020

Today , The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide was released, and Cambridge has topped the overall league table for the eighth consecutive year, yet was simultaneously ranked as the least socially inclusive university in the country. This trend is reflected by other top Russell group universities, as the academic top three (Cambridge, Oxford, St Andrews) are three out of the four least socially inclusive universities.

The Good University Guide comprises of 67 subject league tables, an overall league table, as well as a league table assessing social diversity in UK universities.

Despite coming second overall, it is Oxford University which has claimed the title of “University of the Year” as a result of its recent commitment and action on social diversity. The university has made a commitment to admit a quarter of its students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds by 2023. The guide also highlights Oxford’s decision this summer to give places to most of the students to whom it had made offers in the wake of the chaos of A-level results as contributing to its win.

Cambridge has made a similar commitment to social diversity, promising to admit one in six students from the 40 per cent of postcodes with the lowest access rates to higher education by 2024-25 and to admit 69.1 per cent of students from state schools.

In 2018, 43 per cent of students admitted to Cambridge were from non-selective state schools and 65.3 per cent were from state schools overall.  Yet despite successive increases in the proportion of state school entrants, and a record total of 91 black students being admitted in 2019, Cambridge found itself ranked as the least socially inclusive university in the U.K.

The eight metrics used to measure social inclusion covers the proportions of entrants taken from non-selective state schools, ethnic minorities, and areas of low participation in higher education; those who are first-generation students, mature or disabled; the black attainment gap; and the gap between the dropout rate of students from the areas of the country with the lowest participation rates in higher education, compared to the rate for students from the rest of the country.

Queen Mary University London is the highest-ranking Russell group university for social inclusion which The Times and Sunday Times. With 80 per cent of its students being non-selective state school educated, 70 per cent BAME and 48 per cent being the first in their family to attend university, Queen Mary far outperforms other Russell group universities in the social inclusion table.

University of Lincoln crowned Modern University Of The Year 2021
Sep 2020

The University Of Lincoln has been officially declared Modern University of the Year 2021 by the Times and Sunday times Good University Guide 2021.

The university reached 45th (out of 135), making Lincoln the highest-ranked multi-faculty modern university in the UK. This is it’s highest ever position in the guide.

The university also placed 14th in the UK for overall student satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2020, scored a top five-star rating in the prestigious QS Stars ratings system of global universities, and was named named one of the world’s greatest young universities in the Times Higher Education Young University Rankings.

The University has been given the TEF gold rating for quality teaching – which is the highest standard.

The University has forged connections with several blue chip organisations, in an effort to create exciting opportunities for students and graduates.

Allister McCall, editor of the Sunday Times Good University Guide, said: “Lincoln’s progression to becoming our Modern University of the Year today is a remarkable one. The institution is transformed with high levels of student satisfaction and a course portfolio that is attuned to local, regional, national and international needs in the jobs market.”

“Finishing as our highest-ranked multi-faculty modern university is no flash in the pan. Lincoln has been performing strongly for several years now and the opening of the medical school provides further proof of Lincoln’s arrival as one of the key players in the higher education sector, providing an outstanding education for students drawn to this beautiful city from across the country.”

The University of Lincoln now boasts a full suite of health care education including a medical school which launched last year in collaboration with the University of Nottingham. At full capacity, it will train over 400 undergraduate medical students a year, with a purpose-built new medical school building opening in 2021.

The Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Mary Stuart, said: “Our outstanding teaching and attention to our students’ needs, together with a world-leading ‘local to global’ research approach, and inventive partnerships with a wide range of industry partners, are widely recognised as key elements for universities of the future. I am extremely proud of this national recognition of the University of Lincoln and grateful to all staff and students for their contribution to our ongoing success story.”

“These awards demonstrate our commitment to offering an outstanding all-round student experience and the University is incredibly grateful to the community of Lincolnshire and the beautiful city of Lincoln for providing such a supportive home for our exceptional students, and we know they will be as proud as we are.”

UK points-based Student Route visa starts October
Sep 2020

UK Home Office will launch the Student Route visa system replacing Tier 4 with a 70 points requirement for international students on 5 October 2020.

Today’s UK Government announcement said the new Student Route visa system, originally set for a launch early 2021, will be launched on 5 October 2020 in a bid to attract ‘the best and brightest international students from across the globe’.

The new Student route system, Home Office said, ‘improves’ on the Tier 4 student visa route by making it ‘more streamlined for sponsoring [British educational] institutions and their students, creating clearer pathways for students, and ensuring the UK remains competitive’ in the global higher and further education market.

Minimum 70 points needed for UK Student Route visa

With the implementation of the Student Route, international students will now have to meet a minimum points requirement to qualify for a UK student visa.

International students applying for a student visa will require a total minimum of 70 points to be granted leave.

Overseas students will be able to achieve the required points total by demonstrating that they have been granted admission at a UK educational institution eligible to sponsor foreign students, meet English language requirements, and evidence they have sufficient funds to support themselves during their studies in the UK.

PSW Graduate Route will follow Student Route implementation

Once the Student Route is implemented replacing the Tier 4 system, the UK is set to reintroduce the PSW post study work visa system in the form of the Graduate Route by summer 2021.

All graduates after 6 April 2021 will be eligible for the 2-year UK PSW visa, with international students completing their PhD in UK eligible for 3 years PSW unlike 2 years for postgraduate and undergraduate students.

UK targets 600,000 international students by 2030

Under the Student Route visa system, there will be no limit imposed on how many international students will be able to pursue their studies in the UK.

The UK Government believes this will help to increase the total number of international students choosing to study in the UK higher education system each year to an ambitious target of hosting 600,000 overseas students by 2030.

This ambition was laid out last year as part of the British government’s “International Education Strategy”.

Durham University ranked fourth in UK in the Guardian University Guide 2021
Sep 2020

Durham University has been ranked fourth in the UK in a prestigIous league table.

It is a rise from fifth position last year in the Guardian University Guide 2021, and its fourth consecutive year in the top five.

The guide ranks 20 of Durham University's subjects in the UK top ten, with 12 in the top five and Music ranked first in the UK for the second year in a row.

English and Chemistry are ranked second, Forensic Science and Archaeology third.

Religious Studies and Theology, Classics and Ancient History, Philosophy, Earth and Marine Science, and Modern Languages and Linguistics are ranked fourth, while History, Physics and Sports Science are ranked fifth.

The university says the results further cement its national and global reputation as a centre of teaching excellence, linked to an outstanding student experience.

The Guardian University Guide is made up of a number of indicators including student satisfaction scores based on courses, teaching and feedback, as well as the proportion of graduates in employment or further study after graduation.

These results follow Durham’s recent success in the Complete University Guide, in which the university achieved seventh place, putting it in the UK top ten for the twelfth consecutive year. Durham is also ranked 86th in the QS World University Rankings.

As with all universities, 2020 has been a challenging year for Durham as it manages the impact of coronavirus.

However, the university says it has continued to invest heavily in new facilities to further enhance our student experience, including the opening this past academic year of our new Teaching and Learning Centre and the Maiden Castle Sports and Wellbeing Park.

The new academic year will see the opening a new home for John Snow at Mount Oswald in Durham City, alongside the newest and seventeenth college, South College.

Durham’s new Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science building on the university’s Upper Mountjoy site is also due to open in January 2021.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University said: “I am delighted we have risen to fourth position in this national league table.

"Our continuing success reflects the work being done here in Durham to give our students an outstanding education and a wonderful wider student experience.

"To achieve this and our other league table successes during what continues to be a challenging time for the UK higher education Sector, is hugely rewarding and reflects extremely well on our staff and students.”

UK:Millions of pupils return to school after historic shutdown
Sep 2020

Millions of pupils in England and Wales are returning to school after the unprecedented shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools will look different, with one-way systems, screens keeping pupils apart and staggered start times.

Many pupils will be given inductions so they understand the new rules, such as staying in their "bubble" groups and where to use social distancing.

Teachers will assess how much pupils need to catch up after a long absence.

Schools are beginning to return in England Wales this week - although there will be a mix of starting dates, with some schools having training days as staff prepare for new safety measures.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland schools have already opened for the new academic year.

He has a face mask in his pocket but the school has decided they're not needed.

His mum, Heather, a university administrator says she's fairly confident that the benefits of being back at school outweigh the risks.

From what she has read, she says the pandemic could go on for a very long time. So the children need to be back in school and the parents need to get back to work.

Imole, aged 11, says coronavirus "messed everything up". He was sorry to miss most of his last year in primary school, even the end of year SATs tests.

He's standing at the gates of his new secondary school - a bit apprehensive. "A lot of stuff is going to change," he says.

Aisha, also 11, is "nervous and excited". "It's scary moving from a school where I knew everyone to a school where I don't," she says.

Mum Rasheedat says she's "confident" her daughter will be safe from the virus at her new school: "I'm not really worried".

Sanitisers and screens

It has been almost six months since schools were closed by the lockdown.

They soon reopened to vulnerable pupils and key worker children, but only a fraction of the national school population returned to any form of face-to-face lessons over the summer term.

The rest were required to carry on learning from home, but levels of support and interactive teaching have been very different from place to place.

It is not clear how many parents will have sent their children back, with no official figures yet, although attendance is compulsory.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union said that, thanks to the preparations by school staff, "the signs are at the moment that it's a very calm and managed and positive return".

"There will be lots of nervous children and young people this morning," she said. "I'm sure when they get into school they will be reassured by the routines and be really glad to be back with their teachers and their friends."

University of Oxford is best in the world for the Fifth consecutive year
Sep 2020

The University of Oxford has been named the best university in the world by Times Higher Education for the fifth consecutive year, the first institution to do so under the current ranking system.

Oxford is followed by Stanford in 2nd place and Harvard in 3rd. The THE takes multiple factors into account and has assessed Oxford’s female:male ratio (46:54) as well as satisfaction with the quality of teaching (91.3%) and research (99.6%).

Oxford achieved an overall score of 95.6 and Stanford followed with a score of 94.9.

Oxford has improved its score by 0.2 points since 2020 and has maintained its position at the top of the list since 2017. All of Oxford’s scores have either improved or maintained a steady position, apart from “Citations” which has fallen from 98.4 to 98.0 in the past year. “Citations” describes the overall impact of universities’ research.  

The University of Cambridge fell to 6th place in the rankings with a score of 94.0. Imperial College London and UCL followed in 11th and 16th place respectively.

According to the THE website, the rankings are based on academic factors and does not take student satisfaction or university diversity into account:

“The table is based on 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators that measure an institution’s performance across four areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

“This year’s ranking analysed more than 80 million citations across over 13 million research publications and included survey responses from 22,000 scholars globally.”

The THE World University Rankings is recognised as the largest and most diverse university ranking. THE has stated that the 2021 rankings include over 1500 institutions from across 93 countries.

International summer school attracts pupils from 40 countries
Aug 2020

More than 670 young people from over 40 countries have taken part in Felsted School’s online international summer school, after the cancellation of the onsite programme due to Covid-19.

The two-week programme was split into two academic pathways: an English language course for overseas participants looking to improve their English; and a global studies programme which covered a diverse range of topics including global pandemics, environmental protection, human rights, foreign aid, international security and concepts of justice.

The day consisted of short and flexible online sessions to make allowances for different time zones, with participants watching a pre-recorded video, reading tailored articles relating to the subject and academic research, all before attending live discussions.

Director of global education Daniel Emmerson said: “When the summer school runs on site, we pride ourselves on our approach to building a strong community, through our range of learning pathways, creative academies and the social interaction between students; it was hard to imagine how this was going to work via our online platform.

“However, our students did a superb job in working hard and collaborating together in order to bring the course to life. They created an immersive online community, engaging with the subject material in a fashion that was truly inspirational.

“Five hundred and ninety-one students participated in our global studies course, and each one of their contributions could be felt. I remain inspired by what the students were able to achieve and I can’t wait to get to work on our next online platform.”

Felsted’s international summer school usually runs onsite for six weeks during July and August for ages 8–17.

Now considered Felsted’s fourth term, pupils have the chance to sample a British educational and boarding programme with two academic pathways, as well as numerous academies, clubs, activities and excursions.