As August draws to a close, British students have been receiving the results of their A-level exams. Naturally their attention is now shifting towards the new semester and what they will be studying at university.

This year universities have recorded a rise in applications to study IT-related courses. UCAS, the University and Colleges Admission Service which oversees university place allocations in the UK, reports that IT applications have increased by almost 10% since 2022.

AI is driving an increased interest in undergraduate IT studies

Applications to study IT courses have increased steadily since 2019. UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said she believes the 2023 increases are driven by “the rise of digital and AI”.

Marchant went on to say, “We know that changes in the world around us translate into increased demand for certain courses, as we saw for economics post-2008, and for medicine and nursing during the Covid-19 pandemic.” She credits the growing public conversation around technology and artificial intelligence for increased interest in computing courses.

Vanessa Wilson, of the UK University Alliance agrees, “The rise in the popularity of computing may well be a response to increasing awareness of the role of technologies such as AI, as well as a strong desire from students to develop what they see as future-proof skills.”

Are digital skills the future?

Software engineering has been the most popular computing course, with applications increasing by 16% since last year. Pure computer science degrees are up 11%, computer games and animation up 2% and artificial intelligence (AI) up 4%.

The chief executive of the British Computing Society, Rashik Parmar commented, “Teenagers in the UK know that AI will change the world forever; it shouldn’t surprise us to see this soaring demand for computing degrees”.

Increased interest in computing and AI disciplines is good news for the UK. The British government has recently announced plans to help the country become a world-leader in artificial intelligence technologies and disciplines. But to make these plans work, there will need to be an increase in the number of skilled workers – which is why the rise in IT degree applications is so important.

There was some slightly disappointing news however. Only 18% of applications were made by women. This means that although this figure has grown by 1% since 2023, computing and IT remains a male-dominated industry.

And although 95,000 people applied to study IT courses, this is still far below other subjects. In fact, computing is just the seventh most popular field of study. Business and Management related degrees remain the most popular in the UK, along with design, creative and performing arts courses, medicine, social sciences, biological and sports sciences, and engineering and technology.

But the increase in IT interest is welcome – and seems likely to continue in the years to come.