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Top A-level students warned to aim lower by minister

Thousands of top-performing A-level candidates were yesterday warned by the Universities minister that they should consider lowering their sights and applying for a less prestigious university next year.

Over 3,000 straight A-grade students are expected to be turned away by the institutions of their choice when the results of this year's exams are published. Overall, 200,000 of the 660,000 candidates who have applied to university face disappointment.

Yesterday, Universities minister David Willetts said these students should not expect to get into their first-choice university next year either.

“Sadly, it does look as if there will be quite a number of young people who don't get a place,” he said.

One option for disappointed youngsters with top-grade passes would be to “look at applying for slightly less competitive universities for next year”, he said.

“There have been cases of students with excellent A-levels who haven't got places.”

His comments immediately provoked fury from lecturers' |leaders.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “I am appalled that the Government is now telling hardworking A-level students to ‘aim lower', not higher.

“Asking some pupils to aim lower does not solve the problem of thousands of them missing out on university places — it just changes who might miss out.”

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