An analysis of UCAS subject trends 2007-2016

For those that do not know UCAS is the main admissions service for entry to UK Universities.  Each year they produce an end of cycle report with associated data resources.

We have dug into these lovely resources and looked at the trends around Subject Groups.

For this blog we each looked at the same data but from slightly different angles and different chart types.

Is the UCAS application market evenly spread?

The first question we had was to what degree the UCAS applications are spread across the subject areas.  Are there a small group of subjects that have the majority of demand?

In order to answer this question Adam turned to the Pareto chart.  For those that have not come across this before it follows the Pareto 80/20 rule where by 80% is owned by 20% of the people.  This is a good way of visualising if an area is dominated by the few.

UCAS end of cycle report 2016Click on link to access the interactive viz: UCAS End of Cycle Report 2016: Pareto Analysis

As you can see from Adam’s viz, it is not quite fitting the Pareto rule but the sector is skewed towards 5 main subject areas which take up to 50% of all applications in 2016.

How has the demand changed over time?

For this question we wanted to look at the trends over time and to see the change we decided on a Bump chart.  Dave’s viz uses a bump chart which creates a rank then shows how the subjects change over time.  We have added in the number of applications as the size of the bubbles so you can see which are the larger and smaller subject areas.

UCAS Subject Popularity (1)Click on link to access the interactive viz: The Popularity of UCAS Subjects 2007-2016

As you can see at the top, there is not too much movement but the subject areas in the middle have seen some dramatic drops as well as some dramatic climbs over the last 9 years.

Which subject areas are on the rise, which – on the decline and which providers are the most popular ones? 

The third approach to analysing the UCAS data gives an extra dimension to the subject trend analysis. Elena used a scatter plot to compare the short term with the long term demand on the subject area groups and added an action filter to allow users to see the top [N] providers that attracted the highest amount of undergraduate applications.

UCAS Subjects vs. Top Providers (Highlight Kings College)

Click on the link to visit the interactive viz: UCAS Undergraduate Subjects and Providers: 2007-16

In the scatter plot above you can see that the bigger subject areas are experiencing a steady growth in demand. Looking at the 20 most popular providers shown in the rank chart, there isn’t much change in the top 5 institutions but King’s College London (highlighted) shows a steady increase over the 10-year period to move from 15th position in 2007 to 7th position in 2016 for the overall number of UG applications received.

So there you have it three different questions with three different solutions from three authors.

I hope you found it useful and of interest.  We would love to hear what you think.


Dave, Adam, Elena and Stephen


One thought on “An analysis of UCAS subject trends 2007-2016

  1. […] An Analysis of UCAS market trends 2007-2016 […]


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