A level results day 2022: ‘record progression’ to higher education

Today was always going to be nervy for the almost half a million students who sat the first A level examinations since 2019 this summer, especially after warnings of lower grades following 2021’s results.

Smiling African American student and his friend analyzing exam results in a hallway at the university
However, data suggests that this resilient generation have again proved themselves, recording A level results up on 2019, the last comparable year.Figures released this morning from Ucas, the university admissions service, said outcomes at grade A are 35.9% compared with 25.2% in 2019. Outcomes at grade B and above are 62.2% compared with 51.1% in 2019.Today, 425,830 students are celebrating being accepted into university or college, the second highest on record – an increase of 16,870 compared to 2019 (the last year examinations were held). A fifth more students also secured a place at their first or insurance choice of university compared to before the pandemic.
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A return to pre-pandemic trends

Yet the number achieving top grades this summer is 2% lower than the highest level seen in 2021, when students were awarded places based on teacher-assessed grades. Ofqual, the examinations regulator for England, said that this year’s examination session was always going to be a “staging post between 2021 and 2019 grades”Explaining why, Dr Jo Saxton, its Chief Regulator, said: “The class of 2022 can be so proud of what they have achieved. Since September I have visited dozens of schools and colleges up and down the country and the overwhelming message from students and teachers was that they wanted exams to take place. Students, in particular, wanted a chance to prove themselves. Today’s results are a testament to their hard work and resilience.“Today’s results are higher than those of 2019, and – as we have always said – lower than in 2021, when there was a different method of assessment. It makes sense to compare this year’s results with those of 2019 when exams were last sat. I felt strongly that it would not have been right to go straight back to pre-pandemic grading in one go but accept that we do need to continue to take steps back to normality. These results overall, coming as they do broadly midway between 2021 and 2019, represent a staging post on that journey.”Addressing the concerns of the 20,360 students who today missed out on their first choices (down from 24,260 in 2019) and still keen to enter higher education, 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 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.”

More inclusive admissions

As well as record progression for this year’s cohort to universities and colleges, Ucas is celebrating that more students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have secured higher education places. This year, 46,850 students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have been accepted, an increase of 3,770 on 2019.This means that the gap between the most and least advantaged has narrowed from 2.36 in 2019 to 2.29 in 2022, and from 2.34 in 2021. This year has also seen the first T level students gain a place in higher education, with 370 (71% of applicants) accepted.International students continue to be an important part of UK universities’ student bodies. This year they account for 12.3% of the total full-time undergraduate applicants accepted via UCAS. This is down from a high of 14.7% in 2019. However, 2022 has seen continued growth from nations such as China (+35%), India (+27%), and Nigeria (+43%).

Population bulge sees more competition for places

Commenting on today’s achievements, Ucas Chief Executive Clare Marchant, said: “Congratulations to everyone who has worked incredibly hard and received their results today. Today we have seen more students progress compared to the last time students sat exams.”However, she also sounded a warning for the years ahead. “This year has seen a growth in the number of 18-year-olds in the population, which will continue for the remainder of the decade, and creates a more competitive environment for students in the years to come.  “Whilst many will be celebrating today, there will be some who are disappointed. My advice is to take advantage of the wide range of choices on offer, which includes over 27,000 courses in Clearing, along with a range of apprenticeship opportunities.”Vocational qualification provider, City & Guilds, is also urging young people to consider the full breadth of options available to them. This is after its research revealed a rise in the number of young people in the UK planning to go to university to 40%, a rise from 35% last year, despite there being fewer graduate-level jobs.“As the UK battles against skills shortages, a cost-of-living crisis and with a potential recession on the horizon, it’s more important than ever that young people make informed decisions about their futures,” said David Phillips, Managing Director of City & Guilds. “Our latest research found that 40% of young people in the UK plan to attend university – up from 35% this time last year. But, with labour market analysis from Lightcast suggesting that only 29% of UK jobs typically require a degree level qualification, young people could be setting themselves up for unnecessary debt without a clear onward trajectory.“While university is the right path for some, it’s certainly not the only option. Our recent Great Jobs research shone a light on the essential jobs and meaningful careers that make up 50% of all UK employment opportunities – many of which rely on vocational routes such as traineeships, apprenticeships and T Levels.”

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