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A-level results: The biggest drop in A-grades since records began
Yesterday, thousands of students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their long-awaited A-level results, while hundreds of UCAS clearing call centre and university staff braced themselves for a flood of phone calls.
Those calls were from students whose A-level grades weren't as high as expected, meaning they hadn’t qualified for the university places that depended on those grades.
Last year, over fifty thousand people managed to secure a university place through the clearing process. During yesterday alone over ten thousand had already put in alternative applications, and over 79,000 A-level students still weren’t certain yet whether their applications had been successful.
UCAS data shows that this year 357,915 students have been accepted on their chosen university degree courses - but that's a drop of over seven percent on last year's number.
One of the reasons for that drop would be the biggest decline in A-level A grades since records began, causing the biggest drop in the number of students awarded top marks in twenty years.
One Russell Group university admissions tutor said that as many as one-third of the students with offers of places had A-level grades that fell short of entry requirements.
But that's not limited to Russell Group establishments: teenagers across the UK expecting to have scored two As and a B in their A-levels but who've just fallen short of them are going to have a hard time finding a suitable place at university.
And if they do manage to find that suitable place, this year's student intake are the first to face paying tuition fees that could well have tripled to £9,000 a year.
That's for those students who fully understand the clearing process and can make it work for them. According to a survey carried out jointly by the London South Bank University and The Student Room, almost half the A- level students polled said they weren't confident about clearing itself, or their chances of finding a university place using the process.
Under the circumstances, graduate recruiters are looking at alternative ways to select and train school leavers.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters says: "Following reports that a number of universities - both within and beyond the Russell Group - have declared themselves full this year, many students will be feeling concerned about the options available to them through clearing should they fall short of their expected grades.
"My advice for those school leavers considering clearing is to take a step back and consider their options fully - going to university to study for a degree may not be the right path for everyone, and students who are pressured into making a snap decision today may come to regret it.
"With the further rise in tuition fees this year, students need to be sure that university is the right investment for them."
And if it's not? There are plenty of vocational courses and apprenticeships available for those who know what they want to do for a living, and this year, it would come as no surprise if many of those disappointed students chose to go down the apprenticeship route.
They’d be earning while they learn, get precisely the qualifications they needed for their chosen career, together with the relevant work experience employers are looking for ... and all without the huge debt hanging over their heads had they managed to find a place at university.