A-level results day: Record number of UK university places awarded

A record number of UK university places has been awarded to students this year, it has been revealed.

Thousands of teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their A-level and AS results on 18 August, determining whether they got into the university of their choice after meeting their university’s grade requirement.

According to UCAS figures, 424,000 pupils have been accepted to UK institutions — an increase of 3 percent from last year. 

Thousands more places, including at leading universities, are expected to be made available through clearing. 

Universities have said that this year could be a “buyer’s market” for applications, due to the fact that there has been a decline in the number of 18-year-olds and the cap on the number of places universities in England can offer has been removed.

Around 27,400 more girls were offered places than boys, with three per cent more boys getting a place this year. Girls continue to dominate in many degrees. The gap between the brightest girls and boys at A-level has narrowed for the first time in five years. Boys achieved more A* grades — 8.5 percent compared with girls’ 7.7 percent — meaning the difference in results between the two sexes was just 0.8 percent. After A grades were included, girls narrowly outperformed their male counterparts by 0.3 percent, the smallest gap in 10 years. 

A-level students in the South East performed the best in England, with London pupils a close second. More than 27 per cent of results in the capital were A* or A.

This year’s results showed students from disadvantaged backgrounds are also seven per cent more likely to go to university, following a drive in social mobility.



Overall, the proportion of A* and A grades awarded to students in the UK dropped slightly, from 25.9 percent in 2015 to 25.8 percent this year. Exam board chiefs claimed the drop — which represent just 836 grades — was so small as to not be statistically significant. 

Andrew Hall, chief executive of exam board AQA, said: “It’s a fairly clear and stable set of results. We don’t really see any great surprises.”

Overall, the pass rate remained at 98.1 per cent, exactly the same as last year, although fewer students sat exams.

Maths remained the most popular subject, accounting for 11 per cent of all entries, with almost 20,000 more boys than girls taking the exam. 

Sharon Hague, senior vice-president of Pearson Qualification Services, said: “That’s a long established pattern for maths but there are some encouraging signs. There’s a growth in girls doing economics. Perhaps that’s a sign that young people are aware of the skills that businesses are looking for”. 

Mr Hall added that the difference could be down to subjects where students felt more comfortable. Almost four times as many boys as girls took physics.

Computing, which was also dominated by boys, saw the biggest jump in entrants, rising by 16 percent on last year.  

The fall in students taking modern languages continued with entries in French, German and Spanish all down, although more students received top A* grades, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications.  

It comes after heads of both private and state schools said that students appealing exam results face “the most chaotic and unfair year in a generation”.

In May, Ofqual, the exam boards regulator, said it would only allow remarking if there were “clear errors”.