Brighton and Sussex universities confident about student numbers despite the national drop in applications

The two universities in Brighton are confident about their student intake despite a national drop in the number of applications.

With results day just last week, Sussex University and Brighton University said that it was too early to give final numbers for this year’s intake.

But both universities expect student numbers to remain at about the same level as last year.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said earlier this year that the number of applications for university places nationally had fallen 5 per cent.

Among students from other European Union countries, the drop was 7 per cent.

The decline was blamed on a smaller number of students leaving sixth form this year and the government’s decision to axe bursaries for student nurses.

Among students from overseas, there appeared to be a greater reluctance for EU nationals to apply to British universities given the uncertainties around Brexit – Britain leaving the EU.

Sussex University, based in Falmer, said that it had “overall seen a healthy application process”.

The university even said that it was not using the “clearing” process this year, breaking a long tradition of recruiting some students to unfilled course places after A-level results come out.

The university said: “The number of undergraduate places Sussex is offering is very much in line with last year – and overall we have seen a healthy application process.

“The university did not offer clearing places this year in order to ensure that we are able to fulfil our promise to teach to an excellent standard.”

This looks likely to be the first year that the Sussex intake has not shown a rise in numbers since 2011.

They were going up under former vice-chancellor Michael Farthing’s “Making the Future” strategic plan to increase the intake year on year to 18,000 students by 2018.

The Sussex student body numbered 17,319 in total, counting undergraduate and postgraduate students, when the new intake arrived at Sussex a year ago.

This was an increase of more than 2,000 in total student numbers from the previous year and an increase of more than 4,000 compared with five years earlier.

Sussex said that it did not count home and EU students separately since both categories of student currently paid the same fees.

Brighton University appeared to have done comparatively as well as Sussex in terms of attracting students despite the national trend.

Brighton, however, will still be recruiting students through the clearing process until Friday (25 August).

Brighton University said: “Our phone lines have been very busy and we have handled around 50 per cent more calls than at the same time last year.

“We are not seeing any evidence that the new A levels have had an impact on potential admissions.”

The university said full data for nursing students and EU students was not yet available.

In the 2015-16 academic year Brighton University hosted 21,134 students in total, 9 per cent of those from EU countries and a further 2 per cent from further afield globally.

The number of applicants to the jointly run Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) has remained high in line with its reputation as a prestigious and oversubscribed institution.

BSMS said that it had a limited number of places on offer but never used clearing.

Darren Beaney, head of admissions, recruitment and widening participation at BSMS, said: “At Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), we admit approximately 128 UK/EU students each year.

“As part of the application process, prospective students are required to take part in multiple mini interviews during admission days, which consist of five discussions, each lasting ten minutes, after which they are scored ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘adequate’ or ‘inadequate’.

“It is expected that applicants achieving ‘good’ in each station will be offered a place to study with BSMS.

“The multiple mini interviews were introduced for the first time this year and we had lots of really positive feedback from prospective students who attended.

“Many of the interviewers also found the new format to be very fair and productive in helping them make a decision on the applicants and this also ensures that BSMS selects the right students for the course without needing to enter into clearing on A level results day.”

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