A-Level Results: Hotlines mend broken dreams: Mixed reaction as advisers steer pupils with disappointing grades towards less popular courses

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The Independent Online
'I'M SURE you haven't got anything to offer me, but I thought I'd ring anyway,' said Clare, from London, deeply demoralised by her three D grades at A-level when she needed three Bs for the English degree she really wanted to study.

What about a BA in European philosophy and literature, asked one of Anglia Polytechnic University's A-level hotline advisers. That sounded encouraging, Clare agreed; could the adviser mark the course in a prospectus before sending details out, as she thought she might be too upset to use the index properly.

Her call came through at 8.30am, as the 12 Cambridge- based Anglia hotline telephones opened for the day. At 10.30am, in the first of several daily vacancy updatings, minimum A-level requirements for European philosophy rose from two Ds to two Cs.

'We're getting very, very well-qualified people this year,' explained Rob Halley, Anglia's recruitment officer, between taking calls from a would-be business studies student, whom he encouraged to consider optical management - a mix of science and business; course requirement two Es - and a hopeful law student, rejected from her first- choice university despite getting three Bs.

'We have to try to steer them towards less popular courses, but their reaction to that varies from very good to downright rude,' he said.

Paul Shakeshaft, arts and humanities tutor, sorts forms into three piles. The forms are the original applications of students who have not met their grades; the piles are in decreasing order of deserving a place.

He will take into account the extent to which candidates have missed their grades, their teachers' predictions and references and any special factors. But most of all he must consider the ceiling on student recruitment imposed for the first time this year, he said.

'In the past we took about half our borderline students. This year it will probably be 10 per cent. We've got very precise targets, very nervous managers and unequivocal directives not to overshoot our numbers. So we have to tell people that we won't know for another two or three days if we've got any vacancies at all.'

Leading article, page 12

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