Scramble for university clearing places expected after government shake-up


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The Independent Online

A scramble for university clearing places is expected next Thursday as a result of a government shake-up of the system.

For the first time, universities will be allowed to offer extra places to students who have achieved two A grades and a B pass at A-level when the results are announced on Thursday.

University academics are predicting that some youngsters - if they do better than predicted - will ditch their provisional offers and seek places at more selective universities if they get three top grade passes.

Many universities - including some in the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the most research intensive higher education institutions - are expected to put extra places

The result could leave a “squeezed middle” - middle ranking universities who will lose places as a result, according to Professor Les Ebden, outgoing vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire who is to become head of OFFA, the university access watchdog, next month.

What happens next will depend on whether the “squeezed middle” then decide to put in a pitch for applicants who would normally have taken places at the new universities - the former polytechnics.

University academics are predicting that institutions will offer “bribes” in the form of new laptops or free computers in a bid to lure in more students.

“Some of the squeezed middle institutions who have got some A,A,B students might not have the same reputation as other universities,” said Professor Ebden, “and therefore lose students to highly selective institutions.

“It will then be down to whether there will be a secondary effect as they then try to recruit from students who may have originally decided to go elsewhere.”

Despite a 50,000 overall drop in student applications, there are still far more applicants than  places - partly because there are 20,000 fewer university places this year.