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Richard Garner: Time for university applications AFTER the A-level results


You could argue that the fact 14,000 high flying A-level students have been turned down by Oxford and Cambridge is, in some ways, a good news story.

The applications figures for Cambridge show an increase on last year - and that could be for one of two reasons: students are seeking value for money from the university degree courses now they have to pay £9,000 a year for them and are now aiming higher or efforts by Cambridge to reach out to potential students in more disadvantaged areas have paid off.

Obviously, though, it will not be a good news story for those who have been rejected - and the sheer volume of applications for courses that need at least three A grades passes (Oxford) and two A’s and an A* (Cambridge) shows the magnitude of the task facing admissions officers at the two universities to decide on very thin margins who gets in and who is rejected.

It puts the focus again on the fact that all those who have succeeded have got in on predicted grades as the offers have to be made well before the would-be students have sat their A-levels.

Surely in a case of such importance to the individual students concerns we should be operating as watertight a system as possible for selecting between candidates?  For me, I am afraid, that means moving towards a system whereby students apply to university after they gave got their A-level results - not before.