Congratulations, now hurry up and wait

Today’s A-level results are yet again better than last year’s, but because of the government-imposed cap on student numbers, good results won’t guarantee a university place

August 20, 2009

A-level scores have improved for the th consecutive year, with 97.5 per cent graded from A to E and 26.7 per cent achieving a grade A.

Data published today by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) show that the proportion of grades A to E has increased by 0.3 percentage points on last year.

The results also show an increase of 0.8 percentage points achieving grade A.

This year, a total of 846,977 grades were published, a 2.3 per cent increase on the 8,737 published in 2008.

As last year, there were rises in numbers of students sitting mathematics, further mathematics, physics and chemistry exams.

Traditional subjects remain the most popular, with English and mathematics still the top choices, followed by biology.

Subjects that continue to show a decline in entry are general studies – 4,867 fewer students sat the A level this year than in 2008 – and computing and ICT, which were down 358 and 329 students respectively.

In languages, some 4 per cent more students sat A-level Spanish but 7.7 per cent less entered for A-level German.

Universities welcomed the increase in attainment, but bemoaned a mismatch between demand for university places and supply.

Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire and chair of the Million+ group of new universities, said: “It is testament to teaching standards and the sheer hard work of young people that we are seeing such fantastic results today, it would be a real shame if the tired old ‘standards’ debate overshadows their success today.”

He added: “It is unfortunate that the peak in the number of 18-year-olds in the system and the recession have collided to mean that demand for university places far outstrips supply.”

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, added: “If university places continue to be rationed because of a lack of funding then this week’s scenes will be repeated in future years and many students capable of benefiting from higher education will miss out.”

There have been warnings that this year’s clearing process, the national system for allocating remaining university places, is likely to be concluded “within a week” because of the government-imposed cap on student numbers.

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