A-level results: what should students do now?

Numerous changes to university admissions after A-level results day have left students confused and upset. Here is a breakdown of the situation and what to do next

August 18 2020
a-level results, results day, clearing, adjustment, students, university

To say that 2020 has been a disruptive year for school and university students would be an understatement. In the past six months learning has been shifted online, travel restrictions have impacted international students, exams have been cancelled and there has been little clarity around grades and university admissions.

This all came to a head with A-level results day last Thursday. More than a quarter of a million students discovered that their teacher-estimated grades had been downgraded by exam boards. These assessments had been brought in to calculate grades after exams were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This led to thousands of students missing their first and (in some cases) their insurance choices and having to enter clearing. Many students considered appealing based on their mock results (an option that had only been introduced the day before) and some were starting plans to retake exams this autumn.

While the appeal process was supposed to give students more options,?it was only announced the day?before results day, leaving many students and teachers unsure of the process. How could they appeal? Would their university place still be there if they chose to appeal? How long would it take?

And then just four days later the government decided to U-turn and stated that in fact the teacher-assessed grades would be used for A-level students instead. This would be the case for students across Scotland and Wales too.


Clearing 2020: UK universities with courses available
How to deal with stress over exam results
Navigating clearing: what to do if you don’t receive your grades
Clearing: what you should say on the phone to universities


While many welcomed this decision, it led to a whole new series of?questions – can students revert to their first choice university? Are universities obligated to hold those places for students? What should students do if they have already secured a place elsewhere? Can they still appeal grades? Will there still be the option to retake exams in the autumn? Can students still enter clearing or adjustment where appropriate?

In fact, running through each of the government announcements is a distinct lack of detail. Announcements and changes keep being made with nothing to explain how they would actually be put into practice. For students, a clear set of instructions on their next steps would go a long way in helping to eliminate the anxiety and confusion.

I have seen a few announcements from universities asking students to get back in touch with them if they were unsuccessful before. A few other universities, such as the University of Exeter, have said that they will honour any students who previously held offers from them.

While ordinarily universities are under a contractual obligation to accept all students that they extend offers to, given that many will have been flexible last week in accepting students that didn’t necessarily meet the requirements, they simply may not have the capacity to do so this year. They may instead offer to defer your place until 2021. It does seem very much dependent on the individual institution.

Universities will be taking this on a case by case basis, but if you are a student and have now received the grades to get you into your initial choice, it might be a good idea to get back in touch with your university. Talk through your situation with them and they will be able to let you know what to do next.?

However, do bear in mind that thousands of other students are in your position so expect it to take a while to get through to someone. This will not be resolved quickly because universities have a lot of students to get through (approximately 57,000) but keep trying. Have a clear idea of what you want to say to them and ensure that you have all your information to hand, such as evidence from your school on your grades, your Ucas number and the course that you were applying for.

In the meantime you can also keep checking your university website and Twitter feed for updates as well as checking your status on Ucas track. Keep a close eye on your email inbox too as it could quite likely for universities to get in touch with you via email.?

Another change for students to be aware of is that the cap on student numbers has been lifted this year to ensure that universities are able to accommodate more students. But this does not mean that universities will just be able to easily accept every single student. Some courses will only have a certain number of places available, universities will have to think of accommodation capacities and will still have to consider the number of students on campus given that they will have to observe social distancing.

Students, teachers, universities and admissions officers are all attempting to make sense of what is going on and trying to understand just what they can and can’t do. The main thing that students can do right now is ensure communication with their universities and keep an eye on any correspondance from them.?

It’s been a tiring six months for current and prospective university students. I can only hope that all students who start university this September and the next are still excited at the prospect of entering higher education and are able to experience university to the fullest.

Read more:?Why students should not defer their place at university this year

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