Thousands of good A-level students will ‘miss out’ of college as competition for places grows

Rising demand for top university places could leave more than 10,000 school leavers without firm offers, despite each earning predicted grades of at least three Bs in their A-levels, warn industry experts.

Competition among prospective undergraduates for a place at elite universities has been driven by factors such as an increase in the number of applicants and institutions becoming more wary after taking in too many high-performing applicants during the pandemic.

Being predicted three B grades for A-levels is often enough to get into most universities, but institutions – such as the elite Russell Group of universities – have reportedly raised their entry requirements or limited places for subjects. popular fields such as law, medicine and psychology. .

Andrew Hargreaves, founder of Data HE, a consultancy that advises universities on admissions, and former director of the Ucas admissions service, advised applicants to choose a university with lower admission requirements as an insurance choice .

He warned that many applicants “would be disappointed” otherwise, as 12 elite universities told him they would not participate in the “compensation” scheme on the day the A-level results are released in August.

Mr Hargreaves said: ‘Ucas has not yet released any official data, but I have been told that over 10,000 applicants with expected BBB grades do not hold firm offers at any university. It’s really shocking. It’s a big lack of information and advice.

“We’ve been saying for a decade that this is a buyer’s market, but now the environment has changed, and Ucas and school counselors really need to push that point.”

Some Russell Group universities said they had increased their admissions requirements this year to limit the ‘risk of being oversubscribed’ after taking in too many students in the two years of the Covid pandemic following an increase in applicants with high marks.

Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, said: “It’s absolutely clear that this has been a competitive year for applicants. We have increased our entry requirements in areas at risk of being oversubscribed.

Mike Nicholson, deputy director of education services at the University of Cambridge, said: “Most of the selective universities have been more cautious because they don’t want to get caught for the third year in a row.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, said delaying applications to in-demand universities until next year also carries the risk of not getting a place.

He said: “If this year’s candidates think they are struggling, next year’s pressure may well be worse because there will be more 18-year-olds again.

“Students and parents should know that there are great courses across the industry, not just at the top universities.”

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