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Students told most will get their first-choice university

Students applying to university this academic year have been advised that most of them are likely to get their first choice of institution.

This comes as A-level grades are expected to fall when results are announced on Thursday, meaning competition for places will be tougher, and in response to fewer courses than usual being available on the clearing website for some universities.

According to a letter by the exams regulator Ofqual and the admissions service UCAS, the marks should not be compared with those from 2021.

Last year, 44.8% of grades were either A or A* at A-level, a record amount. It is estimated that this number will fall to around 35%, although this would be up from 25.5% in 2019, the last time exams were sat.

Dr Jo Saxton, chief regulator at Ofqual, said that she had met with universities in recent days to ensure they understood how marks are being awarded this year, and to respond appropriately.

She said: “Tempting as it is to compare grades with 2021, the meaningful [comparison year] is 2019 when exams were last sat.”

According to the letter, only 21% of accepted applicants achieved or exceeded their predicted grades in 2019, but 86% of UK applicants took up a higher education place.

Clare Marchant, chief executive officer at UCAS, said that the service has predicted a “record, or near record, number of 18-year-olds getting their first choice this year”.

In 2019, that total was around three quarters of UK 18-year-olds, according to the letter.

The letter also underlines the other options available to students, including apprenticeships and the Clearing hotline.

Currently, there are around 30,000 courses through clearing at universities on the UCAS website. 17 of the 24 Russell Group institutions had vacancies on courses for UK residents, numbering roughly 2,500, and others said that would only know how many places would be available through clearing on results day.

Ms Marchant said: “While some universities have been more cautious with offer-making to prevent over-subscription, particularly in courses like medicine and dentistry where places are capped, this suggests they are confident their candidates will meet their offers.”

The letter concludes by suggesting that students could put themselves in the “strongest possible position” by thinking ahead and having a plan B in case “you don’t get the results you were hoping for, do better than you expected, or change your mind about what you want to do”.


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