A RECORD number of A-level students have achieved a place at university, the chief executive of Ucas has said.
Mary Curnock Cook, head of the body which manages university admissions, said 424,000 students will be offered their first or second choice of degree course.
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It’s 424,000 placed - the highest ever on A-level results day. It’s up 3% on last year.”
“It does mean that young people now are something like 4% more likely to be going to university because, although the population was down a bit this year we’ve actually seen a rise in the numbers, so that’s really good news.”
Meanwhile, early Ucas figures show a record number of almost 424,000 A-levels students have been placed in UK higher education as of midnight - up 3% on last year.
Boys continued to earn more A*, with 8.5% achieving the very top grade - although this is down from 8.7% last year, contrary to some predictions.
Girls also dropped, from 7.8% at A* to 7.7%, meaning the gap between the two sexes has narrowed to 0.8% from 0.9%.
Including A grades, girls continue to slightly out-perform their male counterparts - with 25.9% for girls compared with 25.8% for boys.
Mathematics remains the most popular subject, accounting for 11.0% of all entries, followed by English (10.1%) and biology (7.5%), the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) said.
Entries in French, German and Spanish all dropped.
The number of exams taken has declined by 1.7%, from 850,749 last year to 836,705.
The results follow changes in a decoupling of AS-levels and A-levels,
At Tapton School in Sheffield, head of sixth form Andrew Wright said it had been ‘another outstanding year’, with 67 per cent of grades at A* to B – up from 61 per cent last year – and 14 per cent A*, and an ‘expected record’ number of sixth formers getting places at Oxford and Cambridge.
He added: “Most importantly, with a year group of over 200, there have been notable successes for all of our students.”
Sheffield College, which has four main campuses at City, Hillsborough, Olive Grove and Peaks, reported a 93 per cent pass rate, with 23 per cent of grades at A* to B. This was down slightly from 94 and 23 per cent respectively, but principal Heather Smith was pleased with the ‘strong’ results.
She said the college had a ‘diverse’ community, adding: “We inspire them to succeed regardless of their starting point when they join us. I want to congratulate them on everything they have achieved and thank our staff for their dedication and support.”
Staff and sixth formers at High Storrs School were also ‘delighted’ with an improvement in this year’s results.
Deputy headteacher Andrew Walton-McBain said: “Students were successful across a wide range of subjects, showing a strong improvement from the 2015 results.
“As an inclusive school, we are particularly pleased by the performance of the those students who have gained places at Oxbridge and those moving on to higher education in universities across the country.
Leeds City College saw pupils achieve a 96 per cent pass rate overall with 80 per cent of A level programmes achieving 100 per cent pass rates.
The college said that 40 per cent of A-Level passes were awarded at grades A* to B. It is launching a dedicated Leeds sixth form at its Park Lane Campus to meet the demand for growth of A-levels.
Results at Ralph Thoresby, in Adel, were said to have exceeded targets this year with 94 per cent of students achieving three or more A-levels and 86 per cent of students achieving at least one A* to B grade. A higher proportion of students have received the top A* grades than ever before.
It said it also had twice the national average of students accepted to elite, research led Russell Group universities. Universities were urging pupils who did not get the grades they had hoped for not to panic as places will be available through the UCAS clearing system. Stewart Harper, the associate registrar at Leeds Beckett said:
“In 2015 over 64,000 students gained a university place through clearing: which is around 12 per cent of all acceptances; so it very much isn’t a ‘second best’ option.”
There was controversy yesterday as UCAS confirmed there had been some cases of universities informing students of their results before an embargo lifted. A UCAS spokesman said: “Regrettably there have been a small number of process errors, typically where universities’ automated systems have released communications to prospective students ahead of results day.
“In each case the provider concerned has informed UCAS immediately and swift action has been taken to correct the errors. The majority of these imply applicant status rather than achieved grades. However, in one case we believe a very small number of students may have had access to their results.
“We take these matters very seriously and, as you would expect, we have immediately alerted the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and the regulators of these errors. These cases are currently under investigation and a full report will be made to the regulators and awarding bodies in due course.”
Last year, boys held a 0.9 per cent lead over girls at A* grade, although girls had a 0.4 per cent lead at A and A* grade combined - having out-performed boys every year since the millennium. Entries to maths and further maths in England are up again, with the former now overtaking English as the subject with the highest intake.
Since they award by far the most A* grades, this could lead to an increase in A* grades overall. Prof Smithers said that the gap between boys and girls had been narrowing since 2006, and that boys could “go further ahead this year due to the increase in people taking maths and further maths”. Last year the number of top A-level grades dipped for the fourth year in a row.
The number of boys and girls awarded A* and A grades fell from 26 per cent to 25.9 per cent. Yorkshire fared slightly worse than the national average but it did see the country’s biggest increase in pass rates - up by 0.3 per cent to 98 per cent.