The Office for Fair Access closed at the end of 31 March 2018 and responsibility for higher education access regulation transferred to the Office for Students

‘Further evidence of the need for action’ – comment on UCAS application statistics

Commenting on UCAS application figures released today which show a continuing downward trend in mature student applications, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said:

“This is further evidence of the need for action to support access to higher education for mature students, who are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds than 18-year-old applicants.

“The downward trend in mature student numbers is now one of the most pressing issues in fair access to higher education. 

“Undoubtedly, the reasons behind the fall are complex and multiple, but universities and colleges should look to do what they can to reverse the decline in mature student applications, as a matter of urgency.

“For example, as I have stated in my guidance on access agreements, each institution could consider whether it might offer alternative, more flexible, ways of teaching and studying that fit around students’ family and work commitments.” 


For further information, contact Sophie Mason (OFFA Communications Manager) on 0117 931 7204, or email


  1. UCAS publishes analysis of all full-time undergraduate applications made to UK higher education at
  2. Other sources of information about the downward trend in mature student numbers include OFFA’s latest report Outcomes of access agreement monitoring for 2015-16
  3. OFFA publication 2017/02, Strategic guidance for 2018-19 access agreements