More students will get to first-choice university

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The Independent Online
RECORD A-level results published today mean that students who fail to achieve the expected grades will face a tougher fight than usual in the scramble for university places.

A-level passes are up by 1.8 per cent and the percentage of those getting the higher grades even more, so many students will win immediate acceptance at their first choice. But with 395,000 students chasing 270,000 places thousands will be disappointed. Those who have to enter the clearing system, which matches students to empty places, will find many courses full.

By yesterday morning the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (Ucas) had processed 101,000 acceptances and officials were predicting that more than half the 270,000 places would be filled by this morning.

The percentage pass rate for A- level has risen by 6 per cent in the past five years and this year the percentage of those getting grades A to C, the benchmark for university entrance, has risen by 2.2 per cent, more than in previous years.

The number of candidates remains constant despite a 4 per cent decline in the number of 18-year- olds, but the drop in numbers taking maths and physics continues.

Eric Forth, Minister of State at the Department for Education, said the results confirmed that A-levels were as popular as ever and were a world-renowned trademark of Britain's educational excellence.

Students' chances of a university place are no worse than last year despite the Government's freeze on numbers: almost exactly the same number of students have applied for the same number of places. Critics had predicted that this year many more students would go into 'clearing' after the Government announced financial penalties for universities overshooting their recruitment targets. Universities played safe by making fewer conditional offers to students and by demanding higher grades.

However, Tony Higgins, chief executive of Ucas, said the record A- level results changed the picture. More students would get their first choices and fewer would need to go into clearing. 'I spoke to one university which had expected to have to recruit large numbers of students from clearing but which said the position would be no different from previous years.'

Because of the new streamlined admissions system, students should know by Monday whether they have been rejected or accepted.

The most popular departments in over-subscribed universities will find that they have overshot their targets. Because they are legally bound to take students to whom they have made conditional offers, they will have to ask less popular departments to cut recruitment.

Questions over standards, page 2

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