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Student deferral rates

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Student looking happy with a piece of paper showing his results

New data shows that, contrary to some speculation, the deferral rate among students due to start in the autumn isn’t substantially higher than in previous years.

While the coronavirus outbreak will have made prospective students consider their plans, data released today by UCAS reveals that the number of students deferring has only risen slightly.

As of earlier this week, 31,380 applicants have at least one deferred choice, compared to 30,760 at the same point in 2019. This represents an increase of 2% but it is important to contrast this against an overall rise in applicants this year of 1.2% by the January applications deadline.

There has also been just a 2% increase in the number of applicants making the decision to defer after originally applying for entry this September, with no significant patterns in applicant demographics. While many applicants may have thought about deferring next year, few students have acted on this.

The only notable shift in behaviour is students doing the opposite – 'un-deferring'. There has been a 19% increase in applicants who had initially indicated that they would like to take a gap year but have now changed their mind and would like to study this autumn. The number of students who un-deferred has risen from 2,680 in 2019 to 3,190 as of earlier this week.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“This is an uncertain time, particularly for those making decisions about university this autumn. Applicants should not feel they need to defer, unless they wish to, and I encourage them to use all the advice and information out there to make an informed decision which will work best for their future.

“At this point in time, the data shows there is not a significant change in deferrals compared to other years, and I am pleased most applicants recognise they will continue to get a high quality experience next year.

“Universities must be clear about how courses will delivered in the next academic year, and I hope this will reassure the thousands of students who are ready to take that next exciting step this autumn.”

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