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

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

Sarah Cassidy
Friday 15 August 2014 10:05 BST
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Students from Central Foundation Boys School: (right to left) Philip Wereko, Theo Fiore,
Maksud Rahman, and Waseem al-Abdulla
Students from Central Foundation Boys School: (right to left) Philip Wereko, Theo Fiore, Maksud Rahman, and Waseem al-Abdulla (Charlie Forgham-Bailey/The Independent )

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.

“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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