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Ucas and A levels - don't understand

(8 Posts)
peppersquint Thu 15-Aug-13 15:52:26

Sorry if this is covered elsewhere but can someone explain to me what is happening with UCAS and A level grades especially in response to university places (I am a graduate but from 1980s and am currently not living in UK).
On tv news this morning there was a lovely young woman who had grades AAB but said she wasn't offered a university place anyway and had to go through clearing.
I really can't understand this - but not sure what the background to this development is.
Anyone help shed some light for me please?

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 15-Aug-13 16:03:44

You apply to ACAS in the autumn before your A-Levels for the courses you would like to take.
The universities look at your application and predicted grades. They may ask you for interview. You are then either offered a place or rejected.
If you have more than one offer the range is lots to none you can choose a firm offer and an insurance ( usually slightly lower grades).
There have always been people with no offers who have to go through clearing for a variety of reasons poor predicted grades, poor personal statement, poor choice, over subscription.
This is not a new development just worthy of reporting this year as there are so many RG places in clearing. It happened in the 1980s - I was one of them.

peppersquint Thu 15-Aug-13 16:09:02

Thanks Lonecat - why are RG places available though? Is it because they don't like initial candidates/applicants or they think they can pick up those students who have done better than they thought they would?

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 15-Aug-13 16:21:14

There are RG places available as they are now allowed to take as many students as they like. Previously their number were capped.

Acinonyx Thu 15-Aug-13 19:11:58

That particular girl was applying specifically for medicine and needed AAA (which is usual). I'm also a 1980s grad and back then it was BBB for medicine, generally.

RG places will be available if students do't get the required grades.

creamteas Sat 17-Aug-13 19:15:18

There are two big changes.

One is to student number controls. Previously every university had a quota for home students and could be fined if they took more students than this. Now universities can take as many students with ABB (or equivalent in other qualifications) and above as they want. Places are still controlled for students with students who get BBB or less.

Second Clearing has changed dramatically. It used to be just to match students with unfilled places. Now it still does that, but also allows late applications and students to change their firm places if they get better results than they needed (adjustment) or, increasingly, if they just want to change anyway. About 1/4 of the places we have offered in clearing this year were to students who already had a place elsewhere.

So places at all unis are now only limited by physical space. So for non-lab-based classes, this is pretty limitless. If you don't go into Clearing, then you will lose students to other universities. Few universities can afford to take that risk.

SlowlorisIncognito Mon 19-Aug-13 22:00:20

There have been a few big changes to the university system in the UK in previous years- firstly, the fees rise, which has caused applicant numbers to fall a bit, secondly, the change in student quotas which creamteas has explained, and thirdly the introduction of adjustment (where students with better grades than their offers can "upgrade" to a different course). Although adjustment was introduced a few years ago, last year, the number of students using it almost doubled.

In general, universities offer places based on data from previous years. I am guessing that this year their data didn't quite match up with what happened for various reasons, and so more universities had more space, and didn't want to miss out on the good students going through clearing and adjustment.

So, this year, I would speculate the very top universities (e.g. Warwick, Imperial, LSE) made more offers (due to lack of a cap on ABB+ students), meaning less places were firmed at the next level of universities (the Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds sort of level). Also, more universities would be keen to take students who missed their place by 1 grade so long as they remained above ABB, when in the past they would have had to reject them, so less students are using insurance places. Finally, as the number of students getting very top grades went down slightly this year, more students than usual would have missed their offers.

Also, just because a course is in clearing doesn't mean it had lots of spaces. In the past, if you were a couple of students short of the quota, I believe the government funding you got wasn't affected. Now, most of the funding comes direct from the students through fees, so if you're three students short that's £81,000 the faculty have lost over three years, which is a fairly considerable amount of money. That means there's a bit more pressure for the admissions team to fill all the places.

missbopeep Thu 22-Aug-13 08:51:01

Another factor- in previous years all RG anyway oversubscribed initially - offered more places than they really had- on the basis that a number of students wouldn't make the grade . This has caused problems when they have miscalculated because there hasn't been enough accommodation for students who did in fact get the required grades.

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