It’s D-day for hundreds of thousands of teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as they are now set to find out whether they would be making their way to the Universities of their choices this September or not.
The youths will find out this week if they have made the grades in their A-levels, as universities across the United kingdom are set to welcome new entrants for 2013/2014 academic season, attracting the new entrants.
Last year saw the first fall in 20 years in the proportion of entries getting the top grades.
Insiders say they expect results to be “stable” this year.
Under changes, universities in England are being allowed to admit as many top-performing students as they want to.
Some are keen to expand and are running big marketing campaigns and offering students extra incentives.
Many will be hoping not to repeat last year’s experience, where thousands of course places were left unfilled. One estimate suggested that 11,500 places were not taken up among the group of 24 leading UK universities which make up the Russell Group.
Last year universities were allowed to take in extra students who had the top grades of at least AAB or the equivalent, but this year that pool of students has been increased to include anyone achieving ABB or more.
About 100,000 teenagers make that grade.
Universities are given individual limits for the number of under-graduates they can recruit with results lower than that.
The change was part of a move to increase market forces in England’s university system and allow popular universities to expand and came in alongside higher tuition fees, which rose to a maximum of £9,000 a year from autumn 2012.
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said “uncertainties” in the new system meant universities might have more places to offer well-qualified students through Clearing – the process which matches students to spare course places.
“We hope this year’s change to a lower threshold of ABB or equivalent will reduce some of the unintended consequences from last year when students who wanted to attend a leading university and had the right qualifications were not able to – even when those universities wanted to accept them,” she said.
Many of the more selective universities are expected to be offering places through Clearing this year.
Professor Dominic Shellard, Vice-Chancellor of Leicester’s De Montfort University, said: “Universities are competing in a fiercely competitive open market. It’s the second year of the new tuition fee regime and behaviour is changing. The best universities are recruiting strongly.”
Last year’s A-level results showed the first drop in 20 years in the proportion of exam entries being awarded top A and A* grades.
A total of 26.6% of A-level entries achieved the top two grades – down from 27% the previous year.
“It is difficult to predict but I am not expecting anything desperately dramatic,” he said.
“A-levels are in a pretty stable state. We are used to teaching them and know what to expect, but the instability is going to happen in the future.”
Some insiders predict the results will show a continuing rise in numbers studying traditional academic subjects such as maths, physics and chemistry at A-level. Exam entries for these subjects rose last year, while those for modern languages continued to fall.
The results coming out on Thursday are for A- and AS-level exams taken by pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Pupils in Scotland got the results of their Highers and Standard Grades early last week, with the pass rate for both rising slightly.
While many teenagers will start work at 18, more than half of UK A-level students will opt to go on to university.
A-levels are set to change from 2015. Under coalition plans for England, the AS-level will no longer count towards the final A-level grade and all exams will be taken at the end of two years.
- Introduced in 1951
- Taken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- Until 1982, pass rate was set at 70%
- Since then, pass rate has risen steadily, up to 98%
- Last year 26.6% of pupils achieved A or A* grades
- All set to change from 2015, when pupils will prepare for A-level exams to be taken after two years and AS-levels will no longer count towards final A-level grades
- The first of the new exams will be taken in 2017