August 14th marked A-level results day, and the commencement of the annual rush to confirm university places and make contingency plans. For a large number of students however the results haven’t affected their choices, or their chances, at all.
Results day always yields headline statistics but this year has seen the most significant change for decades, as for the first time since 1982 the overall number of students passing their A-levels dropped, falling 0.1% to 98%. Whilst the number of students receiving an A* grade increased there has also been an across the board fall in the number of students attaining grades A-E. The cause for this decline is believed to be the cancellation of January exam resits, a regulation change that came into effect during the last academic year that has meant students requiring resits are unable to complete their courses until next year. This has led to an expectation that these results mark an adjustment period, with pass rates expected to rise again next August.
Universities across the country have had to adjust the grade thresholds for some of their courses, with Roderick Smith, director of admissions at the University of Birmingham telling The Telegraph that they would prefer to accept applicants whose grades have slipped over those who come through clearing, as the former have shown more commitment to the university. He went on to say that “for the very competitive courses like psychology, business studies, physics we rarely take on anyone who hasn’t met the offer grade. But some courses that are more difficult to fill – perhaps modern languages – certainly we will take people who are one grade down or maybe two grades down because we want to fill as many places as we can.”
The flexibility of the universities in light of the A-level results supports the prediction that more students than ever will attend university this year, with a 3% increase in acceptances across the board. Nearly 400,000 students accepted places on results day alone, including 352,590 who accepted their first choice institution (figures provided by UCAS). When this figure is combined with the number of applicants accepted through clearing it is predicted that over half a million undergraduates will start a degree course in September, a record high.
What this years’ admissions show us is that the rising costs of higher education is not deterring people from undertaking university courses – and the A-level results might lead you to think that it’s easier to get on to an undergraduate course than ever before.