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A-level students warned on uni spot

Sixth-formers across the country are celebrating another year of record breaking A-level results, with one in 12 gaining an A* grade, but many could still face a struggle to win a university place.

By the end of June more than 660,000 people had applied to start full-time undergraduate university courses, but it has been predicted that between 170,000 and 200,000 could miss out this autumn as universities face multi-million-pound cuts and pressure on places.

More than 300,000 students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their results, the first year that sweeping changes to A-levels have come into effect.

Andrew Hall, chief executive of examining board AQA, said candidates from comprehensive schools, which are responsible for 43% of A-level entries, gained 30% of the A* grades awarded. Students from independent schools, which are responsible for 14% of entries, also took 30% of the A* grades awarded.

Further education and sixth-form colleges, which enter 30% of candidates, saw students receive a fifth (20%) of A*s awarded.

Mr Hall said the new way of assessing students was not designed to make A-levels harder. He added: "There is a myth to slay here: the A-level was not meant to get harder. What was introduced was some more complex questions to show the really strong students how much better they could perform within the A-grade."

Universities minister David Willetts told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that 380,000 people now have a definite place at university, which is "slightly ahead of this time last year", and that clearing places are also available. But he predicted that some candidates with three A grades might not get into the university of their choice.

After describing last year's figures as "shocking", when 3,500 people with three A grades did not go on to university, Mr Willetts was asked whether the same thing could happen again.

He said: "It could be, because the most competitive universities really are very competitive indeed, so it does mean that there are people who can really do very well indeed and get three As at A-level and not find that they have got a place at those intensely competitive universities - which is why they are often advised to have one insurance offer for a slightly less competitive university, or they can think about doing the things that would make their CV even more distinctive and stand out for universities next year."


From Belfast Telegraph