UK universities and UCAS seek to reassure students ahead of August 18 A-level results day

The ‘vast majority’ of students should get their first-choice university course this summer, say Universities UK, which is seeking to reassure teenagers ahead of A-level results day.

While most higher education applicants are expected to get their first choice place, plenty of ‘high-quality’ courses will be available through Clearing insists the collective voice for 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

With less than two weeks to go until results day on August 18 for AS and A-levels, and vocational qualifications including T Levels and Level 3 BTECs, nerves are starting to set in for students and their families.

Universities UK represents 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Image: iStock.

Universities UK says there has been a record number of 18-year-old applicants from the UK – including the highest proportion ever from disadvantaged communities.

More than 50,000 students found their course last year through Clearing – the system universities and colleges use to allocate places to students who don’t have a confirmed offer – and everything, says interim chief executive Chris Hale has been taken into account this year.

He said: “Universities are gearing up to help the growing number of young people applying to university this summer, with the vast majority expected to get their first-choice course and plenty of high-quality courses expected to be available in Clearing. They are experienced at supporting students who do not quite get the grades they need, and admissions teams will be working hard to advise applicants over the summer.

“They have taken into account that this year’s applicants will probably have a lower proportion of top grades than the last two years with the return of exams following the pandemic’s disruption. Decisions are not made on grades alone. Personal statements, references and individual circumstances will be fully considered, so those missing out on their first course choice should keep that in mind and remember there are plenty of great options available.”

More than 50,000 students found a course and college through Clearing last year.  Image: iStock.
More than 50,000 students found a course and college through Clearing last year. Image: iStock.

After two years of disruption and estimated grades systems to award students their marks after long national lockdowns, schools and universities are aiming to return this year’s cohort of more than 700,000 students back to something resembling normality for higher education.

Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) chief executive Clare Marchant added: “We are delighted to see a record number of 18-year-olds, despite the challenges of the last two years, looking to progress to higher education. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see a huge effort across the education sector to support more than 700,000 students begin the next chapter in their educational journey and we believe that record numbers of students will get their firm choice this year.

“Securing a place in higher education, particularly at the most selective courses, has always been competitive. For a student who finds themselves without their firm or insurance choice, or if they have changed their mind, there is plenty of choice available. UCAS will help students explore degree courses alongside other opportunities such as degree and higher apprenticeships.”

Universities UK says it is offering support to take into account the disruption teenagers have had for two years.  Image: Stock image.
Universities UK says it is offering support to take into account the disruption teenagers have had for two years. Image: Stock image.

Together, Universities UK and UCAS have compiled some tips for this year’s applicants who are awaiting A-level results this summer:

1. Stay calm and get advice

Whether things go better or worse than expected on results day, applicants should turn to their school or college advisors in the first instance. Universities and colleges, says Universities UK, will continue to be flexible in their admissions policies, given the level of disruption to schooling as a result of the pandemic, and admissions teams at universities will be on hand to lend support so applicants can make informed choices. .

2. Great course options are in Clearing

Even if students don’t get their first choice, plenty of excellent courses remain available through Clearing – with more than 50,000 students finding places that way last year. If students have also changed their mind about their course or institution and want to self-release themselves into Clearing they should contact their original ‘firm choice’ institution in the first instance, then explore the alternative courses on offer.

A-level results day is August 18
A-level results day is August 18

3. It’s not just about grades

Universities and colleges will be offering places based on a range of factors – not just qualifications. These might include other relevant experience such as performance at interview or an audition, and in some cases, an applicant’s educational background. They are also, insist university chiefs, well aware of the approach to grading that has been taken this year after the predicted system. If applicants do not get the required grades, they should not assume it rules out their first choice university. The advice is to get on the phone and speak to them before doing anything else.

4. Everyone is welcome

This year, record numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds have applied to courses across the country. Universities are well used to taking into account individual circumstances and so any student who is hesitant because of their personal situation, should pick up the phone and seek advice from admissions teams who are experienced in giving tailored advice.

Don't despair is the advice if you don't get the grades you were hoping for.  Image: iStock.
Don’t despair is the advice if you don’t get the grades you were hoping for. Image: iStock.

5. Ask about extra support

All universities have stepped up efforts to support both the education and well-being of applicants moving into higher education, says Universities UK, with specific support that recognizes the disruption they’ve faced because of Covid-19. Applicants should speak to their university about how they can best prepare for the start of the term and keep in mind that they won’t be the only ones feeling nervous at this time.

6. What to know about appealing

Students can appeal marks – firstly to their school or college and then if they still think there’s an error to the exam board. However, applicants should speak to their chosen university first before opting to lodge any appeal because it might not be necessary, and could hold up securing a place.

Also, applicants need to remember that grades in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can go up, down or remain the same following any appeals. It is also recommended that students share appeal results with universities by the advisory UCAS deadline of September 7 and students should stay in touch with their universities if this will be an issue.


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