It’s the day when students who took A-levels in May find out what grades they got and whether they have gotten in to their first choice university. Every year, the number of students getting the top grade (A) goes up and every year the media reports this and speculates on whether or not standards are falling – because children can’t be more intelligent than their parents can they – after all their brains have been rotted by electronic games and social media!
This year there have been a couple of interesting circumstances that will make A-level results day even more stressful for students, parents and University admissions tutors. Firstly, it turns out that the government’s plan to have 50% of 18-year olds in higher education costs too much. A couple of years ago, student fees paid in advance by parents where replaced by a student fees loan repaid by the student after graduation. This means that a very large amount of funds now has to come into the University sector from the tax payer 5 years in advance of the point at which the loans start being repaid.
Secondly, also due to the economy, the number of applications, especially from mature students seeking new “skills”, went up this year.
In the current economic climate, this large, up-front investment is just too much money for the unplanned increase in projected student numbers. To control the projected amount, early in the year, the Education minister announced a strict cap on student numbers. Recognizing that this could result in a politically damaging “lost generation” of qualified students who couldn’t go to University, the struggling labour government announced 10,000 new places (in supposed key subjects) earlier in the summer. But because these places would by unfunded, many Vice Chancellors, quite naturally, turned them down.
So this year, there’ll be record number of students qualified to go to university, and record numbers turned away. Interesting times indeed.
For more background, here is a flavour of the reporting on the days events:
- The A-level and falling standards: One in four A-levels passed at grade A (Polly Curtis, The Guardian); Record top A-level grades awarded (BBC News, with video and audio); A-grades up as students score record A-level results (Alison Kershaw and Tom Morgan, The Independent/Press Association).
- Lack of student places: Record scramble for university courses (Richard Garner, The Independent); Record numbers get A-level grades needed for university place “Clearing scramble begins for 135,000 students while 60 per cent look forward to degree on chosen course” (Claire Phipps, The Guardian); 50,000 A-level students to miss out on place at university “Labour accused of ‘rationing hope’ as shortfall triggers admission scramble” (Polly Curtis, The Guardian); Mad scramble for limited university places after record A-level year, (Joanna Sugden, The Times).
In all the online sources, you will also find links to the background of this story.
The good news is that Swansea University is open for clearing and there is plenty of advice for students needing to find a course or wishing to “trade up”. And of course there is advice for the 60% or so of students who already have their place confirmed.
For the social media junkies out there, The Guardian has a live blog reporting the ups and downs of the day.
To my colleagues in all the admissions teams in Swansea and elsewhere … Good luck!