Compression of university places could ‘hold back a generation’, warns Labor

A generation could be held back by pressure on university places unless James Cleverly steps in, the Labor Party has warned.

This summer, A-level students are expected to face the toughest competition in decades for a place at university due to record numbers of applicants and pressure on places following a surge in admissions. during the pandemic.

“It would be totally unfair for this year’s students to be absent because the government has not put in place an effective system over the past two years,” said Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary , in a letter seen by The Telegraph.

Speaking to Mr Cleverly, who was appointed education secretary last week, she said universities are ‘understandably concerned that another large cohort of students will stretch their capacity to breaking point “.

However, she called on the government to ensure universities start working together now to address capacity issues across the system and to confirm that all schools and exam boards are equipped to deal with appeals quickly. . “I hope you will establish an expectation that students who meet the conditions for an appeal offer should be accepted to start their classes as scheduled,” she said.

“These young people are immensely impressive, they have risen to unprecedented challenges, and they need their government to show the same level of resolve to secure their future.”

“The most competitive race” in living memory

Lee Elliot Major, a professor at the University of Exeter, warned last month that an unprecedented number of students with high grades could miss out on their first choice as they face ‘the most competitive race’ for university places within living memory.

According to Andrew Hargreaves, former head of UCAS and founder of consultancy firm Data He, more than 10,000 applicants with predicted BBB grades do not hold firm offers at any university.

The Class of 2022, who have not taken their GCSE exams due to Covid, face huge uncertainty over their results, with fewer top A-level grades expected to be awarded. Exam watchdog Ofqual has announced plans to reduce grade inflation seen during the pandemic, with nearly half of all A-level results awarded A or A* last year.

The bar for getting an A or an A* will be higher than in 2020 and 2021, but not as high as 2019, in an effort to make the system fairer for students who have been impacted by learning at distance and school closures during the pandemic period.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of UCAS, said this week that the University Admissions Service estimates a “record number of students will get their firm choice this year on results day.” She said nearly 30,000 courses are now available for compensation at many courses and institutions.

“There will be plenty of choices for students who are not placed or who are using compensation as an opportunity to rethink their plans,” she added.

“In parallel, we will help students obtain apprenticeships and proactively ensure that all available options are presented to students when clearing.”

“The suggestions on the lack of places are alarmist”

Andrea Jenkyns, Minister for Higher Education, said admissions should “return to some resemblance to normality” this year. “On results days, UCAS expects approximately 80% of firm offer holders to secure their place in the company of their choice. Any suggestion regarding the lack of places is alarmist and stressful. unnecessary on students at an already stressful time.

She added: “Competition for places at top universities has always been high and this year is no different – ​​but there will always be plenty of options for students, either at another university, through high-quality vocational and technical compensation or options that are just as prestigious and rewarding as academic pathways.

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