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Primary Education News
News A-level results: a big day for the students – and the clearing system
Changes to admission rules mean there will be fierce competition between universities to recruit extra applicants
Around 300,000 students across the UK will find out their A-level results this morning, as more elite universities than ever before prepare to snap up school-leavers through clearing.
Inevitably there will be the annual heated discussion about grade inflation – last year the pass rate rose for the 30th successive year to 98%.
Schools will also be looking to see if there is an improvement in the number of pupils getting the top grade following last year's slippage in the percentages of those achieving As and A*s.
Universities will be focused on the clearing process, which gets under way as soon as candidates find out their results. Changes to admission rules that allow institutions to take an unlimited number of applicants with grades of ABB or above mean institutions will compete fiercely to enrol extra students. Last year, many universities fell short of their recruitment targets after an overhaul of the system caused a dip in admission rates.
Professor Don Nutbeam, vice-chancellor of Southampton University, said he expects more students will use clearing to find a university place this summer.
"In the past, going through clearing has had certain connotations, not always good ones. This year, and progressively in the future, it will be part of the marketplace for talented students," he said. "More universities and students will make use of it compared to the past, when we had a highly regulated system."
The relaxation of student number controls means universities will better able to offer courses to the best applicants, he said, but admitted that the system is still "unfamiliar".
"Truthfully, we still don't know. This is a brand new and somewhat artificially constructed marketplace. Universities are still learning year by year how it will work."
Paul Clark, director of policy at Universities UK, expects that this year's results day will run more smoothly: "Despite the annual predictions of chaos, universities are very experienced in this area and admissions departments will cope remarkably well."
Clark also rejected claims that university is no longer an appealing choice for school leavers.
"Demand for university courses remains very high, with more people applying than there are places. Some have suggested that there will be a growing focus on a small number of 'jobs-based' degrees, but we must not forget the importance to the UK of having a broad range of subjects. Higher education, regardless of subject, also provides graduates with a range of important skills such as the ability to think critically and to analyse and present evidence.
"The important thing is ensuring that students are on the right course for them and studying subjects that motivate them."
One of those students soon to open her results is Alex Darrington from Ipswich. "I'm going into school for 8am to meet friends and pick up my results. We've been nervous all summer so we just want to get it over and done with now and get on with the next stage of our lives. I'm hoping to study accounting, business finance and management at York University, but I'll need AAB.
"I'm hoping for the best but obviously I'm still prepared to go through clearing if need be. My school's handed me a clearing pack – which I'm not sure I should be too thrilled about."
But university isn't the only option for young people, added Sarah Clove from online apprenticeships guide Notgoingtouni, who said many will be looking elsewhere for their next career steps.
"For a long time there has been a bias towards university, while apprenticeships or alternative paths are seen as a second choice. Actually many parents and students are now realising that there's a real range of ways for young people to achieve their career goals that don't involve taking on a huge amount of debt."