Universities waive entry requirements amid A-level confusion

Three Oxford colleges will honour all places offered to UK students, irrespective of their A-level results

Universities are adapting their admissions procedures to deal with the fallout from this Thursday’s A-level results, with some offering students the chance to apply with mock or predicted grades.

By Friday 14 August, more than 187,000 English-domiciled 18-year-olds have accepted a place on a higher education course – 86% of whom received a place at their first-choice university. The number winning places at their first-choice provider is six percentage points higher than 2019.

The number of students placed through clearing or adjustment so far is lower than at the same point in 2019 – the figures are down 44% on last year.

A record 20,280 18-year-olds from POLAR4 quintile 1 in England have been accepted into university – up 7.3% on last year’s results day.

However, there are concerns about what impact Ofqual’s moderation process – which lowered 39% of grades – will have on applications.

Ofqual wrote to universities yesterday (Thursday 13 August) to ask them “to be as flexible as you can towards students who might have missed out on their offer, for example by using contextual information”.

The Office for Students still expects providers to achieve their widening participation targets this year; the regulator even went so far as to say, “the decisions made this year about students from the most disadvantaged communities across the country will be crucial”.

However, The Guardian has reported that some higher tariff universities have rejected students who missed their predicted grades.

The University of Oxford’s Worcester, Wadham and St Edmund Hall colleges will honour all places offered to UK students, irrespective of their A-level results. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge said that some students who successfully appeal may have to defer entry to October 2021 if the institutions don’t have anymore space.

On Friday, the University of Oxford confirmed it had made 3,440 – 284 are for UK state school candidates who have missed their grades. The university’s state school intake currently stands at 67.8% – an increase of 5.7 percentage points compared to 2019. Oxford also announced a 6 percentage points increase in places to students from the most socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and 2.3 percentage points increase to those from areas least likely to go to university.

The University of Leicester announced it is offering places based on mock A-level results as well as published results, whichever is higher, regardless of whether a student decides to appeal.

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) said it is flexible about admissions decisions this year – “in light of the ambiguity about whether this year’s results are accurate reflections of each student’s academic ability”.

QMUL also said it would extend “extra flexibility” to students who qualified for free school meals.

A spokesperson for QMUL said the admissions team would lower entry standards “by one or two grades” at confirmation and in clearing. The university will drop entry requirements by three grades for students who have access to free school meals or have attended schools that performed below the national average at A-level.

QMUL will also hold places for students who wish to appeal or revert to their mock A-level grade.

June Hughes, registrar at the University of Derby, told University Business that her employer already has a system for admitting students who “just missed out” on their grades – but, she added, the scope was fixed and the university could not enrol students who fall significantly beneath the course requirements.

Prof Mark Ormerod, deputy vice-chancellor and provost at Keele University, said the university would offer “contextual-based” offers to all students who missed their grades.

Pictured: students at Eastbourne College receive their A-level results

Read more: A-levels: DfE’s decision on mock results met with dismay by sector

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