Students to win record number of elite places

The Times, 13.08.15, teenagers receiving A-level results today have an unprecedented opportunity to secure a place at one of Britain’s top universities. Chris Ramsey, headmaster The King’s School, Chester and Chairman of the HMC/GSA Universities Sub-Committee is quoted.

A record number of places are still available at the elite Russell Group universities amid intense competition to recruit the brightest students.

Last night candidates who had failed to achieve the grades required by their preferred choice were urged to act quickly, with the most sought-after courses expected to fill within hours.

Applicants with A and B grades will be able to choose from leading institutions including Durham, Bristol, Warwick and Exeter. There were places on 3,451 courses at Russell Group universities last night.

The most popular institutions predicted that they would have finished their clearing process by tomorrow lunchtime, but experts warned potential students not to be panicked into making hasty decisions.

The list of about 31,000 courses with vacancies on offer went online at 6pm last night, rather than midnight as in previous years, giving students a longer browsing period before they can formally enter clearing at 5pm today.

A quarter of all British applicants — more than 100,000 — signed up to a new service offered by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) giving permission for their results to be shared with universities that are still recruiting, which will further speed up the clearing process.

Up to five universities will be allowed to contact potential students directly from lunchtime today.

A record number of candidates, in the low tens of thousands, have also accepted unconditional offers from universities. The practice was particularly common among northern universities that recruit regionally, meaning that in some areas one in five applicants has an unconditional offer, guaranteeing their place.

Mary Curnock Cook, the chief executive of Ucas, said: “Most universities will have some courses with vacancies so there will be plenty of choice for students. Universities are well set up to take calls from interested students which means that although things move fast, it is usually easier to get through on the telephone.”

The University of Birmingham said it expected to be in clearing for only a short time today, for programmes including law, social policy, maths and biosciences. The University of Warwick predicted that it would have about 100 places available across courses including theatre studies, engineering, sociology, psychology, law, Italian, French, German, history of art and classics.

Bristol University had places on more than 50 courses yesterday, although the required grades remained high for some. Those seeking a place to study economics and accounting still needed AAA or A*AB, suggesting that such candidates would have been predicted stellar results and narrowly failed to achieve them.

Other courses with availability included physics, childhood studies, animal behaviour and welfare science, and many language courses.

Liverpool University had spaces on more than 300 degree courses, mostly asking for three grade Bs at A level. Many of these were on language degrees — a pattern that was shared with almost every other university. It raises questions about the future of language departments at leading universities if so many are undersubscribed.

The University of Nottingham said it would have places available on courses including biosciences, business, economics, geography, history, modern languages and Chinese studies. The University of Southampton had 326 courses with vacancies, Sheffield had 345 and Leeds had 395. There were 25 courses recruiting at Exeter, including energy engineering, English, history and politics; and ten at Durham, among them English language, history and music.

This is the first year that universities have been free to recruit as many undergraduates as they wish, after the government scrapped limits on student numbers. Many have responded with marketing campaigns to woo higher achieving applicants, including offers of £1,000 bursaries and free iPads.

Chris Ramsey, the headmaster of The King’s School, Chester, and a spokesman for the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, a professional association, said: “This year, we again call on universities to make quick and clear decisions about any candidates who may have narrowly missed their offers, and we are pleased to hear that there is due to be a new, proper debate about post-qualification admission.”

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