Half of university places go to ‘substandard’ students as school leavers are accepted for degree courses with lower A-level grades than the results generally demanded
- Half of school-leavers accepted by universities with grades lower than standard
- The trend comes amid rising competition between universities to fill places
- Overall, record 541,240 students accepted to undergraduate courses this year
Half of school-leavers were accepted for degree courses this year with A-level grades lower than the advertised standard.
Students from the most deprived backgrounds were even more likely to take up places with poorer results than generally demanded.
The trend comes amid rising competition between universities to fill places, a drop in the number of eighteen-year-olds in the population and ‘increased consideration’ given to disadvantaged students by admissions tutors.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said these factors made 2020 the ‘ideal time’ for sixth-formers to apply.
Half of school-leavers were accepted for degree courses this year with A-level grades lower than the advertised standard (stock image)
‘Findings from the 2019 cycle suggest that applicants should not be deterred from applying to courses with challenging entry requirements,’ said the report.
‘Universities and colleges frequently accept applicants who perform below their entry requirements. Encouragingly, this is most often experienced by disadvantaged applicants.’
The UCAS data shows that 49 per cent of 18-year-olds in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, sitting at least three A-levels, were accepted onto courses with exam grades that were below the requirements advertised by the university for the course.
The figure was 60 per cent for applicants from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
UCAS said this might be due to ‘contextualised offers’ – in which an institution takes into account a student’s schooling and background when deciding whether to make an offer.
Clare Marchant, chief executive of UCAS, said: ‘Today’s report shows the unprecedented opportunity for anyone currently thinking of applying to university to be ambitious with their choices.
‘The trends identified through our analysis are very likely to continue into this year, with universities, colleges, and schools continuing to support students from a variety of backgrounds.’
But Professsor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said degrees would mean less to potential employers due to lower standards.
Overall, a record 541,240 students were accepted onto undergraduate courses this year. Of these, 73,320 came through clearing – up nearly 10 per cent on last year.
Tough maths exams = fewer maths degrees
Maths is under threat at universities because the number of undergraduates choosing the subject has hit the lowest level in seven years.
The number of acceptances onto courses this autumn was down 9.9 per cent on last year.
Teaching leaders warn that pupils are being put off the subject because it has been made more difficult under exam changes introduced by Michael Gove when he was education secretary.
The decline in accpetances for mathematical sciences was the ‘largest proportional fall’ for all degree subjects this year, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
It said 8,285 students started the course this autumn, compared with 9,200 last year. It is the lowest figure since the 8,100 recorded in 2012.
The UCAS report said the decline coincided ‘with the launch of the new maths A-level, which saw nearly 6,000 fewer students taking the subject in summer 2019’.