From education to employment


team with hands in the middle
  • Plenty of university and college places available this summer
  • Most higher education applicants expected to get first course choice 
  • ‘Top Tips’ guide published to help applicants through results season
  • Those missing out urged to consider the huge range of choices in clearing

​Universities are gearing up to help the growing number of young people applying to university this summer, with the vast majority expected to get their first-choice course and plenty of high-quality courses expected to be available in Clearing. 

With a fortnight to go until Results Day on Thursday 18 August for AS/A levels, vocational qualifications including T levels and Level 3 BTECs – and with Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers on Tuesday 9 August – Universities UK and UCAS are issuing advice for applicants and their families. 

The record number of 18-year-old applicants from the UK – including the highest proportion ever from disadvantaged communities – is testament to the continuing appeal and value of a university education, and strong employer demand for graduate skills. 

The vast majority of applicants who start university this year are expected to get their first choice.Those missing out on their firm or insurance choice will have access to many other great courses available through Clearing – as over 50,000 students did last year. 

Commenting Chris Hale, Universities UK Interim Chief Executive, said:

“Universities are gearing up to help the growing number of young people applying to university this summer, with the vast majority expected to get their first-choice course and plenty of high-quality courses expected to be available in Clearing. They are experienced at supporting students who do not quite get the grades they need, and admissions teams will be working hard to advise applicants over the summer.”

“They have taken into account that this year’s applicants will probably have a lower proportion of top grades than the last two years with the return of exams following the pandemic’s disruption. Decisions are not made on grades alone. Personal statements, references and individual circumstances will be fully considered, so those missing out on their first course choice should keep that in mind and remember there are plenty of great options available.” 

Minister for Skills, Further and Higher Education Andrea Jenkyns said:

“Since results day last year, we have been working closely with universities and colleges, Universities UK and other mission groups, UCAS and Ofqual to ensure that this year admissions return to some resemblance of normality.”

“There are plenty of places available through UCAS including nearly 30,000 courses viaClearing. On results day, UCAS expect the majority of firm offer holders to secure their place at their firm choice.”

“Competition for places at the most selective universities has always been high but there will always be lots of options for students either at another university, through clearing or high quality vocational and technical options. Individual universities will continue to be flexible and fair in their decision-making, like in any year, and have significant experience supporting young people throughout the application process.” 

UCAS Chief Executive Clare Marchant, said: 

“We are delighted to see a record number of 18 year olds, despite the challenges of the last two years, looking to progress to higher education. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see a huge effort across the education sector to support more than 700,000 students begin the next chapter in their educational journey and we believe that record numbers of students will get their firm choice this year.”   

“Securing a place in higher education, particularly at the most selective courses, has always been competitive.  For a student who find themselves without their firm or insurance choice, or if they have changed their mind, there is plenty of choice available. UCAS will help students explore degree courses alongside other opportunities such as degree and higher apprenticeships.”  

Universities UK and UCAS have compiled a ‘Top Tips’ guide for this year’s applicants: 

1. Stay calm and get advice  

Whether things go better or worse than expected on results day, applicants should turn to their school/college advisers for advice. Universities and colleges will continue to be flexible in their admissions policies, given the level of disruption to schooling as a result of the pandemic, and admissions teams at universities will be on hand to lend their support so applicants can make informed choices about where, when and what to study. UCAS’ website, social media channels, which now include TikTok, and experts on the phone can also provide personalised information and advice to help students with their decisions.  

 2. Remember there are plenty of great course options

Even if students don’t get their first choice, there are plenty of other great courses available that will suit them, and applicants should make use of Clearing – as over 50,000 students did last year. If students have changed their mind about their course or institution and want to self-release into Clearing they should contact their original ‘firm choice’ institution in the first instance, then explore the alternative courses on offer. 

3. Know that it’s not just about grades

Universities and colleges offer places based on a range of factors, not just qualifications. These factors might include other relevant experience such asperformance at interview or audition, and in some cases, an applicant’s educational background. They are also well aware of the approach to grading that has been taken this year – the bar for achieving the top grades is lower than it would have been in 2019, although will be higher than it has been over the pandemic when exams weren’t able to go ahead. 

If applicants do not get the required grades, they should not assume it rules out their first choice university. It’s important to get on the phone and speak to your first choice university before you do anything else. 

4. Know that universities are proud to welcome people from all backgrounds  

This year, record numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds applied to universities across the country. Universities are well used to taking individuals’ unique circumstances into account, and this year is no different.  As with all groups of students, disadvantaged students should not hesitate to pick up the phone to their chosen universities to seek advice from admissions teams who are experienced in giving tailored information, advice and guidance. 

 5. Ask about extra support preparing for university

Universities have stepped up efforts to support the education and wellbeing of applicants transitioning to higher education with tailored support and activities that recognises the disruption they have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Applicants should speak to their university about how they can best prepare for the start of their university experience, and rest assured that others will also be nervous and excited at the start of a new chapter.  

 6. Be confident about university – it remains a great choice

Starting university in 2022 is an excellent choice. A university experience gives students the knowledge, skills and contacts to pursue their ambitions and puts graduates in a strong position in the jobs market. A degree from a UK university continues to give a significant boost to employment prospects and improve earning potential. Interest in higher and degree apprenticeships among applicants continues to grow as students discover alternative routes to higher level skills that better fit their career aspirations and personal commitments. 

7. What to know about appealing

Students can appeal their marks – firstly to their school/college and then, if they still think there is an error, to the exam board. However, applicants should speak to their chosen university before opting to appeal because it might not be necessary, and it could hold up securing their place. Also, applicants need to remember that grades in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can go up, down or remain the same following appeals this year. It is recommended that the student share their appeal results with universities by the advisory UCAS deadline of 7 September, though students should stay in touch with their universities if this will be an issue.

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