Results for A levels released this morning show that 26.6 per cent of entries achieved an A or A* grade, down from per cent last year.
It is the first time the proportion of entries given top grades has fallen in more than 20 years. However, the overall pass rate has risen again from 97.8 per cent to 98 per cent, with the proportion achieving A*, A or B grades static at 52.6 per cent.
The figures suggest that fewer students may end up with grades of AAB or above – the threshold above which universities can recruit an unlimited number of students.
There are fears that those narrowly missing AAB grades could struggle to find a place, as they will then fall into the pool of places that is restricted.
Meanwhile, the first figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that 357,915 applicants have so far been accepted into a university or college, compared with 384,649 at the same point last year, a fall of 6.95 per cent.
A total of 101,171 applicants were still awaiting a decision on whether they had gained a place, slightly fewer than the same point last year when the figure was 104,498.