A-level results U-turn: How are university places and clearing affected?


EDUCATION Secretary Gavin Williamson has lifted the cap on university places after a massive U-turn on A-level grades threatened to cause further chaos for students.

Universities will be able to give places away to any who were offered a spot – even if their initial computer mark fell below what they needed to get in.

Students have had their grades changed after a Government u-turn

Gavin Williamson has removed caps on university places

What happened on August 17?

Hundreds of thousands of A-level and GCSE grades generated by computers are to be ditched and replaced with teachers’ predicted marks after a huge uproar, it was finally confirmed.

Boris Johnson bowed to overwhelming pressure from parents, pupils and his own MPs and ripped up the whole system just days after it was put in place.

It means that kids will now have the highest grade out of the teacher predicted mark, or the computer-generated mark.

So what does that mean for university places?

The cap on university numbers has effectively been ditched, meaning they can take as many as they feel they have room for.

Mr Williamson said on August 17 that universities would not be fined for going above previous limits to help accommodate students affected by the bungling of A-level results.

Mr Williamson said: “They won’t be fined and we’re removing those caps on every single university in the United Kingdom, so that they have the ability to expand the number of places, welcoming more students into those universities, as many as possible.”

His words suggest the Government will be encouraging unis to take as many people as they can.

So will I get a place if I had my offer turned down for not getting my grades on A-level results day?

It will depend entirely on the university at the moment.

Universities could still decide to give a student a place if their new grades meet their offers.

But universities often offer more places than they have available because not all students given an offer will be able to make the grades required to take up the spot.

There are practical problems – such as space in lecture theatres and tutorial rooms – that could mean not everyone will get a place.

What else could happen?

If universities do want to offer a place but they are full up, they could offer a deferral until next year.

While this is far from ideal, it means many will be able to go to uni in 2021 instead.

Mary Curnock Cook, formerly UCAS chief executive, told the BBC kids could have to take gap years because there simply isn’t enough places at universities now.

She said: “There are literally tens of thousands of students who decisions have already been made about who they accept and don’t accept.

“This change will mean that universities have to rethink completely.

“Many have filled their places rightly and now they are being asked to take in potentially tens of thousands of people moved back to their centre assessed grades.

“There will be some courses that are just physically full and may have to offer deferrals.”

What about if I accepted an offer at my second choice but now have the grades to go to my top choice?

There is still no clarity on what happens to the 30,000 students who have already confirmed a place at a university that wasn’t their top choice because they thought they wouldn’t make the final cut.

Thousands of other kids have swiped up spots through clearing.

The best thing that can be done will be to contact your uni with your new grades and send them proof of your teacher predicted marks.

They will then be able to make a call on whether they have space for you.

UCAS will be meeting with schools and universities to thrash out how to make decisions after the shambolic results process.

A spokesperson said: “In response to the announcements across the UK regarding the awarding of A levels, UCAS is now working with universities, colleges and schools to support students to understand their options and achieve their place in higher education. 

“For those students who were not placed with their firm (or insurance) choice university, our advice is that you don’t need to make your decision immediately. 

“Once your university has your ‘Centre Assessed Grades (CAG)’ via exam bodies they can make a decision as to whether there is a place at your preferred choice.

“We will be issuing new advice for students and schools and this will be sent directly to students as soon as they are able to take a decision.

“UCAS is working with Universities UK and the education sector and whilst the decision is with the individual university, we will do everything we can to support students to use their CAGs to secure the best possible outcome.”

Universities have said they are waiting for further information on what this means.

What have universities said about it?

The University of York said: “We are working hard to respond to the latest announcement from the UK Government about results for confirmation and clearing.

“We are awaiting further details and we will provide more information and guidance to students as soon as we can.”

Some universities will offered deferred spaces for next year because of lack of space in particular coursez.

University College London has said they will accept all pupils given an offer, but are still working out how this will apply to courses such as medicine – which had a cap on numbers based on practical constraints.

The London university said: “UCL’s priority is to be as fair as possible to all applicants, recognising that they have worked hard during unprecedented circumstances and deserve their first choice university. 

“We are delighted to accept all students who meet the terms of their original offer on all programmes that do not have an externally-determined cap (such as medicine). 

“For those students who have met our offer to study medicine based on teacher-assessed grades but do not yet have a place confirmed, we are working with the relevant agencies about places this year and we will guarantee a deferred place for next year.”

The Government backflipped on its A-level results policy after mass opposition

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