Record numbers win places at uni but gap between the sexes widens

Despite fewer A-level passes, more students than ever gain university entry

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The Independent Online

Record numbers of students are heading to university, with more than half a million expected to take up places even though A-level results were slightly down this year.

More than 20,000 teenagers from the most disadvantaged UK backgrounds have won places – up eight per cent on last year, an analysis by admissions service UCAS found.

The figures also revealed that the gap between the sexes is widening, with more than 52,000 less men than women allocated places yesterday, prompting UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook to call for more focus on boys’ achievement at school. A total of 224,570 women had had their places confirmed yesterday, compared to just 172,420 men. The gap had widened since the same point last year, when just under 46,000 more women had been placed.

Ms Curnock Cook said: “Today’s numbers are a reflection of the continuing strong demand for higher education. A combination of extra places available and the falling population of 18-year-olds means that students are in a good position to secure a place this year.”

 

Despite results being slightly down overall, more students – 352,590 – won places on their first choice course, up two per cent on 2013. Higher education experts said this was partly due to a new system which removed the limit on students achieving ABB grades or better, allowing universities more flexibility to accept students who had missed their grades or to make last-minute offers to candidates who did better than expected. The Government also created 30,000 extra places this year.

More than 659,000 people applied to uni by the end of June – up 4 per cent on last year. But early figures showed 103,970 students still awaiting results or decisions on places, up 5 per cent on last year. Tens of thousands are expected to be searching for places through clearing, the process that matches those without a place to courses that still have openings. A number of leading institutions are expected to enter clearing, including some which do not normally take part, to offer last-minute places to students with good grades. Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the UK’s top universities, said: “Some Russell Group universities may still have places available in some subjects for students who have done better than expected.

“There may also be places available for highly qualified students who have narrowly missed out on their first choice. We encourage those students to get in touch with Ucas to see whether there may be places available to them.”

Universities Minister Greg Clark said: “Higher education is one of the most important sources of social mobility and I welcome the growth in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The lifelong benefits of higher education are significant. Graduates are much more likely to be employed than non-graduates. They also earn on average significantly more over their lifetime.”

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