Clearing race for thousands who missed their offers

Sharp drop in marks sees 250,000 students forced to fight for just 25,000 places

Thousands of teenagers failed to win their university places yesterday, after they were unable to achieve the grades demanded. Ucas, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, revealed a sharp 26,000 drop in the number of A-level candidates able to meet their conditional offers.

Admissions officers said the main reason was that many had not achieved the grades necessary to take up conditional offers as a result of the 0.4 percentage point fall in the proportion of A-grades awarded this year. Exam boards are bracing for a flood of appeals against grades. Figures from Ucas showed that a total of 357,915 applications had been accepted by a university or college yesterday – compared with 384,649 at the same time last year.

That left more than 250,000 applicants still seeking a place, with the clearing system showing that only 25,000 courses at UK universities still had places to offer.

"Despite the fall in applications this year, entry to higher education remains competitive and we expect to see an active clearing period," said Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of Ucas.

Around 120,000 young people would still be without a place at the end of the day despite the trebling of tuition fees to up to £9,000 a year for the first time, student leaders predicted.

This year has seen a total of 629,140 university applications – down by 52,453 on 2011. The number of university places has also decreased by around 15,000, down from 480,000.

Last night it was looking as if some students who missed out on their conditional offers at elite Russell Group universities were still being offered their places.

Those offered a place dependent upon three straight-A grades, in particular, were finding they could squeeze in with two As and a B.

The Government has changed the student funding system to allow universities to expand if they take on AAB students.

Not all universities are planning to take advantage of the opportunity to expand, though, with Oxford and Cambridge, notably, expecting to recruit the same number of students as last year.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director of the Russell Group, said: "Our leading universities will not decide en masse to expand at the first opportunity but some with the capacity and demand are now choosing to recruit more students.

"Universities need to balance expansion with ensuring they can still provide the first-rate student experience that being a research-intensive university offers."

The Universities minister, David Willetts, yesterday said that the number of students going into higher education would be broadly comparable to previous years.

"There is a long-term trend for more and more people to aspire to go to university and for more and more employers to look to employ people with higher education qualifications and I personally don't think, taking the long view, that trend has suddenly stopped," he told BBC Radio 4.

"What we are seeing at the moment is there has actually been a slight decline in the number of 18-year-olds – there is a slight shrinkage in the size of that cohort – so what we are doing is we are maintaining university places broadly flat."

However, Rachel Wenstone, vice-president of the National Union of Students, said more students faced an "anxious wait" over their places as a result of the reduction in student places.

"The hundreds of thousands of students who have received their A-level results today should be unreservedly congratulated for their hard work but ministers have not made their lives any easier," she added.

A-level case studies

'I don't know if I will be able to study to become a doctor'

Rebecca Bates, from Grantham, Leicestershire

Rebecca waited all day to hear from her second-choice university after being rejected by her first choice. She missed the grade by five marks.

"I have gone through clearing to get a place studying chemistry at Newcastle but I won't be able to take it until St George's, which was my insurance option to study medicine, formally responds.

"I have been refreshing the computer every few minutes for hours. It is hard to see my friends planning where they are going when I still do not know. It makes it difficult to plan anything. It also makes everything that little bit scarier; I thought I was going to London, even after King's College rejected me. Now, I don't know if I have to go to Newcastle or not. Nor do I know if I will be able to study to be a doctor. I applied firstly to study medicine, but at Newcastle I am doing chemistry."

'These results give me the hope of swimming in the Rio Paralympics'

Jess Harper, 18, from London

The delighted swimmer has achieved grades that she hopes could lead to a place in the Paralympics at Rio 2016.

With straight As, she will now take up a place at Brown University in Rhode Island, in the United States, where she will compete in disability swimming events.

She said: "They've got a great swimming programme over there and the coaches are really brilliant.

"I'm hoping that will give me the boost I need to make it for 2016."

The Putney High School pupil, whose lower left arm failed to develop before she was born, is ranked No 19 in the world in the 100m butterfly.

Jess squeezed in her schoolwork for English, French, Spanish and history along with nine training sessions a week.

"It is a challenge. It means I have to be really organised. I'm waking up early and going to bed late," she said.

When asked whether she preferred academic work or swimming, Jess replied: "At some points they were both equally gruelling, but it has to be swimming."

At Putney High School, south-west London, some 63 per cent of all A-level entries achieved A* or A grades.

'I was expecting higher grades than I got but you can't win them all'

Jack Whitsey, Chesterfield

Jack Whitsey, who got a C in government and politics and Ds in biology and psychology, had not heard whether or not his grades will be good enough to get him into his first-choice university.

He said: "I have been accepted into my insurance option so, at the moment, it looks like I am going to Northampton to study biology. I will have to pay £8,500 to £9,000.

"My first choice was the University of Kent. I would have been happy paying the same price to go to a more prestigious university like Kent. I am now looking at paying that to go to a lower-ranked university. But they are all going to charge the price they can get and we can't change it, so I will just do my best.

"It is unfortunate how much we are going to have to pay out but the conditions in which you pay it back are fine. It is about 4 per cent of the monthly wage but it is quite a lot of money to have to pay out.

"It is fair that if you have got the grades, you get a better place for your money. I was expecting a little higher than what I got but you can't win them all."

Q&A: Getting in to university

Q. My daughter got AAB – not good enough to take up her provisional offer. Should she despair of getting into a Russell Group university?

A. No, not necessarily, there were tales of students in similar positions still being offered their places yesterday. The Government's decision to allow universities to expand student numbers provided they take in AAB students means that they have every likelihood of getting a place at one of the more selective universities.

Q. So who is likely to miss out?

A. Those who obtain ABB and below may find it harder to obtain a place. However, middle-ranking universities, who failed to attract enough top-tier students, may make extra places available.

Q. Will clearing be quieter this year because of the fall in applications?

A. Emphatically not. If anything, it will be busier. Last year record numbers of places were snapped up on results day. There was, therefore, little availability during clearing. This year as fewer students met their offers, more places are vacant.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
News
i100
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
News
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect