A much-anticipated time has come for UK students and their families as A-Level results have been released.
The news, generally, is good, as this year the percentage of students with top A-level grades has fallen, but the overall rate of passing has increased and more students were accepted into university than ever before.
A* and A grades were given to 25.9% of the 850,749 entrants, compared to 26% last year, writes the ITV Report. A* was made up 8.2% of entries, which is on par with last year. Passing grades rose this year from 98% to 98.1%.
According to the Ucas admissions service, 409,00 university places have been confirmed, which is a 3% increase from last year and a result of the removal of the cap on university places. According to the BBC, Universities Minister Jo Johnson called this “great news.”
Michael Turner, Director of the Joint Council for Qualifications, said that the sector as a whole is solid:
The over-riding message from this year’s figures is one of stability. There have been no significant changes to the system, results are stable, and entries follow expected patterns. Students can be confident that they have received the results they deserve.
Maths, English, and Biology are the most popular, with Maths seeing a 20% increase since 2010. This year, the number of students taking Computing spiked.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said of the government’s focus on core academic subjects:
As a result thousands more pupils, from all backgrounds, are studying subjects that will secure them a place at a top university or an apprenticeship and that will help to secure well paid employment.
The number of students taking music, German, French, and design and technology fell. According to BT.com, some see this as evidence that students are choosing to take courses that appeal to the most respected higher education institutions, but others say it is a result of budget cuts that decrease access to niche courses.
The Mirror quoted Cherry Ridgway, Curriculum and Assessment Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, who thinks that the interplay between student needs and funding is changing the landscape:
I think students are looking carefully at the subjects they need to get into university and schools are helping them with good careers advice to look at what qualifications they need to take the next step. Schools are getting better at that and students are getting better at that.
But there is also this element of some subjects not being able to be offered by schools due to funding pressure post-16. Particular subjects that stand out this year are significant drops in music and German, which show a bit of a worrying trend and one we might expect to see get worse going forward given the increase of funding pressures on schools.
27,000 more women than men will be taking university courses this year. However, most of them are not going into STEM majors, leading Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt to conclude:
We still waste far too much potential. These results remind us that progress on increasing the number of young women taking subjects like physics, maths and computing is still too slow.