British Universities Tighten Admissions Criteria this Year

British universities have become more selective about the caliber of students they’re accepting for enrollment. According to research published by The Daily Telegraph, while universities are expanding the number of places offered to students with the highest A-level results, they are placing strict limits on the slots available to those who didn’t get a First on their exams.

Bristol is just one of the schools that is making room for an additional 600 AAB students this year, with University College London adding nearly 300 more. Although Newcastle didn’t commit to an exact number, the school’s representative said that they will also increase the quota for top-scoring candidates.

Other universities such as Birmingham, East Anglia, Exeter, Essex and Kent said additional places may be made available through the traditional clearing system for these high-scoring students.

The Telegraph’s report comes less than a week before students all around Britain will find out their A-level scores. More than 300,000 graduates sat the exams this year and it is anticipated that the number of papers graded A* or A will either fall or stall this year due to the introduction of a tougher grading system. Last year about 9% of students scores an A* and 27% scored at least an A, representing a three-fold increase since the early 1980s.

The tougher grading criteria was put into effect to combat what is being seen as grade inflation that makes A-levels less valuable as a tool for assessing student knowledge. This is going to serve as bad news for many, as they can anticipate lower scores at the same time as universities are getting stricter about their admissions criteria.

Andrea Robertson, from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, told the Times Educational Supplement: “For some courses, there is an increased likelihood that some institutions will not be able to accept near-miss applicants, when in previous years they might have been able to.”

Sue Kirkham said that although universities looked favorably upon near-miss candidates in the past, this will change going forward. When British universities were capped at the number of students in each achievement level they could take, with high fines for each one accepted over the quota, this is the first year where controls have been lifted for higher-achieving candidates.

The controls remain in place, however, for students scoring below AAB, which means the schools will devote their efforts towards recruiting those with the highest A-level scores. Most schools say they are committed to making at least some spaces available to be filled through clearing, but the applications from students with AAB+ will go to the top of the pile. Some, like Essex, Coventry and West London are even offering merit scholarships to AAB+ candidates ranging between £1,000 and £2,000.