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Joint Ofqual and UCAS letter to students before results day, Sector Reaction


Dear Student

For those of you receiving results on 18 August

This week, you’ll get your results. To get to this point, you have shown real dedication to your studies and resilience in sitting your formal exams and assessments after the disruption of the pandemic. This will stand you in good stead whatever choices you make about your next steps, whether that be an undergraduate course, apprenticeship, or employment.

We know you might have questions about results day, confirming offers and Clearing. Like, what are your options on results day? What happens if you change your mind about your choices?

Here are a few things we’d like you to remember:

  • This year we have returned to summer exams, with all students being assessed on the same basis. Your grade will be determined solely on the basis of your work.
  • Whatever your results, you can be confident that it’s no harder or easier to achieve a particular grade no matter which exam board’s specification you took. When marking and grading your work, examiners do not know your name, which school or college you attended, or where in the country you live. Ofqual makes sure that the rules are the same for everyone.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t get your predicted grades. This happens very often. In 2019 only 21% of accepted applicants achieved or exceeded their predicted grades, but 86% of UK 18-year-olds applying to UCAS took up a higher education place.
  • Universities understood what grades will look like overall this year and took this into account when making offers. It’s not meaningful to compare this year’s results to those in 2021, because it was a different form of assessment.
  • In 2019, when exams last went ahead, around three quarters of UK 18-year-old applicants were placed at their first choice. Come results day this year, UCAS again expects most students will secure their place at their first choice.
  • You have lots of choice for your next step, whether it’s an undergraduate degree or an apprenticeship. There are more 18-year-olds in the population this year and more applying to higher education too, but there are still lots of places in higher education and apprenticeships at top employers available. Over 90 per cent of this year’s applicants are happy with the offers they’ve got. In fact, nearly 300,000 UK 18-year-olds are holding a firm offer, up 7,000 on last year and the highest on record – meaning more applicants are in a prime position to secure a preferred course than ever before.
  • University admission isn’t always just about grades. When deciding whether to make an offer or accept a student, universities generally look at the full range of information within the UCAS application, including the personal statement and reference.
  • If you don’t get the grades for your first choice, you may still be accepted by your university of choice, for example, if you are a grade lower than your offer.
  • If you don’t get your first or insurance choices, there will be lots of choice through Clearing with around 30,000 courses available across a broad range of universities and colleges as well as apprenticeships with employers. UCAS is here to support you with your choices through Clearing. You might find it helpful to think in advance of results day about what you might do if 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. You can put yourself in the strongest possible position by thinking ahead and putting together a Plan B.

We are confident that with the right support you will continue to rise above any obstacles in your way and progress onto your next step.

If you’d like to know more, listen to UCAS’ Clearing Choices podcasts about all things to do with results day, and how to take control of your future, and discover your options in the UCAS Hub. For more information on marking and grading this year, check out Ofqual’s podcasts and blog post on grading for A levels and vocational qualifications in 2022.

Dr Jo Saxton, Chief Regulator, Ofqual

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive, UCAS

Sector Response on concern that students could miss out on first choice universities this year as A Level grades fall

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“UCAS expects the majority of students to secure their place at their firm choice this year, and in preparation our focus has been on working with universities to ensure offers reflect the grades students will receive this summer.

“Last year did not see a high number of deferrals compared to previous years and UK students take up the vast majority of places on university undergraduate courses compared to international students, so it is not right to suggest that these factors have caused a squeeze on places.

“Competition for places at the most selective universities has always been high and this year is no different – but there will always be lots of options for students either at another university, through clearing or high-quality vocational options that are just as prestigious and rewarding as academic routes.”

Sarah Hannafin, senior policy advisor for school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“We know that nationally exam results are due to be lower overall this year than last year. It’s important that universities are flexible, take into account the disruption this year’s students have experienced and work with them to get them on the right courses and paths for their futures.”

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