Students facing university scramble
A desperate scramble for university places is under way, as sixth-formers across the country celebrated another record-breaking year of A-level results.
About one in 12 exam entries (69,302 in total) were awarded one of the new A* grades, according to figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications. This exceeded predictions, based on last year's results, that around 7% would get the top grade.
Overall, the pass rate rose for the 28th year in a row - with more than one in four entries (27%) gaining at least an A grade.
But despite the bumper year, students are still facing a battle to win a university place.
Figures published by the university admissions service, UCAS, show that more than 185,000 students so far are eligible for clearing this year. Last summer, 47,600 students accepted places through clearing, and the numbers are expected to be lower this year.
Clearing - the process which matches students with vacant university places - opened as results were announced, but it is expected to be short. Around 18,000 courses have places available.
More than 660,000 people applied to university by the end of June, and it is predicted that between 170,000 and 200,000, including sixth-formers and older learners, could miss out this autumn as universities face multimillion-pound cuts and pressure on places.
Universities which entered clearing began to fill up fast as soon as the results were published. Thames Valley University said it had more than 1,200 calls to its clearing lines within two hours. Kingston University said more than 40,000 attempts had been made to call its clearing and confirmation hotline by 1pm. And Essex University said some of its most popular courses were already full.
The A-level results reveal that private school pupils were three times more likely to score the top mark than state school pupils, while overall girls achieved more A*s than boys.
Andrew Hall, chief executive of the AQA examining board, said candidates from comprehensive schools, which are responsible for 43% of A-level entries, gained 30% of the A* grades awarded. Students from fee-paying schools, which are responsible for 14% of entries, also took 30% of the A* grades awarded. Girls got more A* grades overall than boys (8.3% compared with 7.9%), but boys got more A* grades in science and maths-based subjects.