Belfast Telegraph

Courses only open to top students

Places on hundreds of degree courses at the UK's leading universities are still available, but most will be closed off to students who did not get top grades in their A-levels.

Latest figures on the Ucas website suggest that there are around 1,500 courses at Russell Group universities that still have availability, although some institutions said that the places listed are not actually open to students.

Almost two weeks after A-level results were published three English universities - Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield - have spaces open on a number of courses.

But the majority of these are effectively only open to the brightest students, those who scored at least an A and two B grades in their A-levels.

Under a major overhaul of higher education, this year there is no limit on the number of students with ABB at A-level that universities can recruit, effectively leaving them competing to attract the best candidates. It is thought around 115,000 bright students fall into this category.

It means that some top universities are remaining in clearing in a bid to snap up sixth-formers with top grades - including those who did better than expected - who are still looking for a degree place.

Clearing is the process that matches those without places, either because they have missed the grades they needed, or were not holding offers, with courses that have vacancies, while adjustment allows students who have done better than expected to trade up to a different course or university.

Newcastle University confirmed it had places on 134 courses, and was staying open for ABB students only.

A spokesman said: "We expect this to be our biggest ever intake of students."

The situation is similar at Liverpool University, with a spokeswoman confirming: " We do have a limited number of places available for those students who have done better in their A-levels than expected and who may not yet have considered the University."

And Sheffield also said it was staying open for good candidates.

A spokesman said: "The University has currently met its target number of places, however, due to the Government's decision to allow universities to recruit as many high achieving students as they are able, we are still recruiting some additional high quality students in some subject areas through clearing and adjustment."

Leeds University currently has around 74 courses with availability, according to figures on the Ucas clearing website, although a spokeswoman was unable to confirm this.

Outside of England, Queen's College Belfast said it had 191 courses with availability for students from England, Wales and Scotland, but not Northern Ireland due to a cap on the numbers of students from the country that the institution can recruit. There are eight courses available for Northern Ireland students, mainly around archaeology and planning.

A spokeswoman for Queen's College added that some degree places may go to students with less than ABB in their A-levels if they have met the relevant course requirements, for example three B grades.

Queen Mary, part of the University of London had 182 courses listed on the clearing website on Tuesday morning, and that number had dropped to 14 by mid-afternoon.

"Courses may still appear on the Ucas website as we have to keep the courses open for a few days to let applicants who were made an offer just before the Bank Holiday weekend refer themselves to us through the Ucas website," a spokeswoman said.

"The website should indicate that courses are closed by tomorrow."

Cardiff University, which had 69 courses listed on the clearing website, said it had received over 34,000 applications this year and had filled its places for degrees starting this autumn.

As of mid-afternoon, Birmingham University had spaces on around 147 degree courses, according to the clearing website, but a spokeswoman for the institution said that it had now closed and was no longer taking part in clearing.

And Glasgow University had around 435 courses listed, but the institution said it was not accepting any more students, and courses remained listed while "small adjustments" were made to final figures.

A Ucas spokesman said that they display the information on the clearing website that is given to them by universities.

Very small numbers of courses were still available at some other institutions, although in some cases, such as at Nottingham, Warwick, York and Southampton, these courses were only remaining open whilst candidates' places were finalised.

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