Higher education providers across England will honour offers to students who have achieved the required grades for their conditional offer of a place, a sector taskforce announced today.
Michelle Donelan launched the higher education taskforce on Tuesday as the government sought to unpick the chaos caused by the A-level grading fiasco.
The daily meetings yesterday achieved a breakthrough for thousands of disappointed students.
All students who meet their entry conditions will either get a place at their first choice university or, if maximum capacity is reached, an offer of an alternative course or a deferred place.
The announcement comes as the university admissions service Ucas confirmed that approximately 15,000 students who were rejected by their firm-choice university now have the grades to meet their conditional offer.
Following the reinstatement of centre-assessed grades, the UK’s four largest awarding bodies confirmed 160,000 students had their results upgraded. Over 100,000 of those students secured a place at their first-choice provider – and now another 15,000 can do the same. There may be more student who also now qualify for insurance offers – although Ucas has not released data for these applicants yet.
The cap on domestic medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and undergraduate teacher training places has been lifted and the government has promised extra grant funding for high-cost subjects, such as those STEMM disciplines.
The taskforce comprises Ucas, the Office for Students (OfS), Universities UK (UUK), Guild HE, the Russell Group, Universities Alliance, Million Plus and the DfE.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: ” I want universities to do all they can to take them on this year or offer alternative courses or deferred places where required.”
Eligible students can ‘self-release’ through Ucas and accept a new offer at their preferred university. Ucas hopes to share the revised grades with higher education providers by the end of the week.
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of UUK, said: “The policy U-turn on A-levels has created significant challenges for universities caused by late movement of students between institutions. The welcome additional medicine and dentistry places and confirmation of the additional teaching grant for high costs subjects will help to support capacity.”
However, Mr Jarvis also hinted that the sector – particularly some financially at-risk universities – would need more help from the government to weather the storm. Earlier this year, UUK called on the DfE to provide a large bailout package for the sector – but the request fell on deaf ears. Mr Jarvis today renewed calls for further financial assistance.
“Government now needs to urgently confirm funding both to ensure the financial stability of institutions suffering from a loss of students and to offer further support to maintain and build capacity where needed,” Mr Jarvis said.
Government now needs to urgently confirm funding both to ensure the financial stability of institutions suffering from a loss of students and to offer further support to maintain and build capacity where needed – Alistair Jarvis, Universities UK
Yesterday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that low-tariff universities could see their 2020 intake “reduced to a trickle” as A-level upgrades increase demand for top-tier universities.
Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, said: “The Government’s decision today to provide additional funding for high cost courses, such and chemistry and physics, and to lift the number caps on specialist courses, including medicine and dentistry, is a very positive step, which will allow us to increase capacity and help more students to benefit from a high quality education.
“Russell Group universities are working with government and will do everything they can to accommodate as many students as possible on their preferred courses this year and will continue to do so wherever this is practically possible. Where this isn’t possible, our universities will look to offer deferred places or explore places on alternative courses where the student meets the entry requirements.”
Dr Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), described the announcement as “a welcome reprieve for many” – but she said “hard-working university staff” would have to deal with the “damaging consequences” of the government’s “shambolic decision-making”.
Grady called on the government to protect places for BTEC and A-level students still awaiting their results and provide more financial support for hard-pressed providers.
“We also need to see a proper health and safety plan for how large numbers of students will be welcomed to university safely in the middle of a pandemic. The sector also needs significantly more financial support so that institutions who miss out because students choose to go elsewhere are shielded from further chaos, jobs are protected, and the university sector in all its diversity is well placed to lead the recovery from this crisis,” Grady added.
Critics yesterday slammed Michelle Donelan for excluding the NUS and the UCU from the DfE’s taskforce for higher education sector groups. Shadow universities minister Emma Hardy questioned: “How can a task force solve the crisis facing universities without also speaking to student and staff representatives?”