One in four students to get their first choice of university
David Willets, the Universities Minister, has revealed that a total of 85,000 university places will go to students with AAB grades at A-level. This is an increase of 20,000 on the number previously expected for the 2012/2013 academic year, and means that around one in four entrants are more likely to achieve their first choice of university. The increase comes in the wake of the cap on places being lifted for top-scoring students.
In a speech to a conference of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Willets outlined a progress report on university funding and places. This was followed by the indication that the higher education bill, set out last summer to introduce a wave of reforms, would probably not be passed into legislation.
Despite this, many changes have already been implemented, including the end of limits on places for those achieving top A-level results. The elite Russell Group of universities (the association comprising of the UK’s leading universities) supports the move, calling for even more places to be made available this way in the future. “It is a radical change that has started to liberate the system”, said Willets.
However, the reallocation of these 20,000 places has implications for other institutions, which will no longer have the same amount of places available. The worry is that middle-ranking universities will lose out as students trade-up to higher-ranking universities. Increased pressure comes as a further 20,000 places in English universities have been ring-fenced for those offering lower-tuition fees following the tripling of yearly tuition to a maximum of £9,000.
Willets announced in his speech that £900 million is being spent to widen access to British universities both in the UK and abroad, and he was keen to emphasise reports that the “sector is responding well”. He indicated that, as a result, the government is already hoping to expand the scheme for the 2013/2014 academic year. Nevertheless, many are sceptical about what they see as premature actions, calling for Willets to hold back until the current changes have been fully assessed.