A-level results see more students fight for fewer places

Tense moment: Thousands of students will find out if they made the grade today.
Tense moment: Thousands of students will find out if they made the grade today.

By Ian Dunt

Scenes of joy, despair and desperation will play out across the country today, as thousands of A-level students struggle for a tiny number of places.

With thousands of students skipping their gap years to grab a university place before tuition fees rise, 673,000 students are trying to secure one from only 350,000 university places available this year.

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Meanwhile, a brutal jobs market is leaving many parents concerned their children will also fail to find any openings in the job market.

Official figures released yesterday showed unemployment among 16- to 24-year-olds rose by 20.2% to 949,000.

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The number of students gaining an A*-E rose to 97.8%. It is the 29th consecutive year that results have improved.

It appeared that boys had finally closed the gap with girls, with 8.2% of both groups achieving an A*.

There was a serious boost for the hard sciences, with maths entries up 40.2% over the last five years, physics up 19.6% and chemistry up 19.4%.

"Ministers must wake up to the real danger of creating a lost generation," said shadow education secretary Andy Burnham.

"This year, demand for university places has surged as students try to avoid the higher fees that come in from 2012. But the numbers of university places have been cut, England's Careers Service is in meltdown, EMA has been scrapped and youth unemployment stands at nearly at one million. "

National Union of Students (NUS) president Liam Burns said: "We should be celebrating the numerous individual successes that today represents, but unfortunately we can be under no illusion about how challenging the current circumstances are for students.

"Those receiving their results today will sadly have to keep their wits about them and avoid the temptation to panic as they seek to navigate through the chaos and confusion left for them by ministers who, unlike many of the students receiving their results, have failed to do their sums properly."

Schools minister Nick Gibb played down the difficulties and focused on the achievements of young people.

"The last ten days has seen huge public debate about the appalling behaviour of a tiny minority of young people. Today, however, we can all celebrate the success of the hundreds of thousands of students who have worked hard and are collecting their well-earned results," he said.

With many courses now full, several universities cancelled the clearing process, leaving many eligible students without a place.

The news comes as new research suggests changes to university entrance rules could weaken social mobility in England and Wales.

Social mobility 'unintended victim' of tuition fees


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