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University scramble hots up as A-level results are announced

By Kathryn Torney

Thousands of students across Northern Ireland will receive their all-important A-level exam results tomorrow.

The long-awaited issuing of grades is expected to trigger an unprecedented scramble for university places across the UK this year.

Last week, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Queen's University and the University of Ulster had received over 53,300 applications from more than 21,680 people for the 8,378 first-year places available this year.

And the increased competition has led to local university courses demanding top A-level grades.

The Belfast Telegraph asked Queen’s University and the University of Ulster (UU) for a breakdown of the grades needed for some of their courses and how this compares with five years ago.

This shows that students now need the same high grades to study Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Ulster as those needed for a law degree — an A and two Bs.

This equates to 320 UCAS Tariff Points — the system used to allocate points to qualifications.

An A* grade equates to 140 points, an A is 120, a B is 100, a C is 80, a D is 60 and an E is 40.

The points needed for Nursing

at UU has gone up from 260 (to include grades B and C) in 2005 to 280 points (to include two Bs) this year. And English has gone up from 240 to 260.

Meanwhile, at Queen’s University, an A and two Bs is now needed for English — compared to BBB five years ago.

Computer Science has gone up from BCC to BBC, history has gone up from BBB to ABB and BCC is needed for Biomedical Science, compared with BCC in 2005.

Law at Queen’s has stayed the same and requires three As.

Across the UK, there were a record 660,953 applications to UCAS this year — almost 200,000 more than there are places.

JJ Cavanagh, examinations manager at local exams body CCEA, said: “Results day can be a very exciting time, but we also understand that it can be an anxious time .

“That is why CCEA provides a helpline which offers easy access to dedicated and experienced staff who can support students and give details of the full range of services that we offer.

“For example, CCEA offers an Enquiry about Results service where schools, on behalf of their students, can request that an examination is re-marked.

“In addition to the helpline, the Frequently Asked Questions section of the CCEA website contains important information which is available out of normal office hours.”

Help is at hand for admission procedure

  • Applicants who achieve the exact grades or points specified in their conditional offer should have their place confirmed through UCAS. Students who average out or narrowly miss the grades required may still be accepted for their original choice. Others may participate in the Clearing process. Available courses are likely to disappear quickly this year.
  • Exams body CCEA has set up an examinations helpline which will operate from 9am to 5pm until September 3. Call 028 9026 1260, email, or log onto the CCEA website
  • The Department for Employment and Learning’s Careers Service NI has a team of professionally qualified Careers Advisers who offer impartial careers information, advice and guidance. Visit and or call 028 9044 1781 from 9am to 5pm.
  • Decisions made by Queen's University, the University of Ulster and Stranmillis University College are posted on a website hosted by Queen's. Visit

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