More than 50,000 A-level pupils left battling for degree – as Sheffield University CLOSES its clearing hotline after 24 hours due to flood of ‘high-achieving’ students on results day

  • This year’s number in clearing is the highest since at least 2013 
  • It compares with 39,230 in clearing at the same point last year 
  • The number of students accepted on to UK degree courses fell this year
  • Sheffield University said they had taken ‘unprecedented’ step to close clearing
  • Manchester University said they have filled the places they had in clearing 

More than 50,000 UK-based students were in clearing trying to get places on higher education courses a day after A-level exam results were released, figures show.

This year’s number is the highest since at least 2013, and compares with 39,230 in clearing at the same point last year.

The number of students accepted on to UK degree courses fell this year, initial data from Ucas showed on Thursday, but was still the second highest on record.

On the day results were published, 425,830 people had places confirmed – down 2 per cent on the same point last year but up 16,870 compared with 2019 when exams were last held, Ucas said.

By Friday morning, there were 53,510 UK-domiciled 18-year-old applicants marked as ‘free to be placed in clearing’ on the Ucas website.

The increase in applications this year has seen some universities close their clearing portals after just 24 hours. 

Sheffield University told MailOnline that they had taken the ‘unprecedented’ step to close clearing this morning. 

They said the route would normally be open for ‘several weeks’ but due to the ‘volume’ of applications from ‘high-achieving’ students yesterday they closed it. 

Manchester University told MailOnline that they only had a small number of courses available in clearing and they have now filled them all. 

More than 50,000 UK-based students were in clearing trying to get places on higher education courses a day after A-level exam results were released, figures show. Above: Students open their a-level results at the City of London Academy in Southwark yesterday

Sheffield University told MailOnline that they had taken the ‘unprecedented’ step to close clearing this morning

A total of 214,930 UK-domiciled students got their first choice, compared with 226,910 last year.

The organisation’s chief executive Clare Marchant said the growth in the number of 18-year-olds in the population is something that is likely to create ‘a more competitive environment for students in the years to come’.

The number of international 18-year-olds getting their first choice this year rose to 19,830 – up from 18,870 last year.

The figure was down from just over 20,000 in both 2019 and 2020, but up on each of the previous years dating back to 2013.

Places for students from China, India and Nigeria are all up – increasing by 35 per cent, 27 per cent and 43 per cent on last year respectively, Ucas said.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who sat exams this summer for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, received their results on Thursday.

A-level grades for students across the UK dropped from pandemic highs, but remained above 2019 levels.

A Sheffield spokesman said: ‘We actually saw such a large volume of high-achieving students apply through clearing yesterday (and prior to that via our advanced registration facility) that we have taken the unprecedented step to close clearing to new applications this morning.

‘Normally, we would be open for clearing for several weeks, using it as an opportunity to recruit high-achieving students, however the volume of applications from those students was so high in one single day that we’ve taken this step.’

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Cardiff University told MailOnline that they now have ‘very limited’ spaces in clearing for ‘high-calibre’ students and urged potential applicants to contact them because places are in ‘high demand’. 

Exeter University said on their website that all their clearing places have now been filled, bar a Masters course in nursing. 

It came as Commons Education committee chairman Robert Halfon said international students are seen as a ‘cash cow’ for universities due to their higher fees, the Daily Telegraph reported.

He said: ‘While we should welcome overseas students, they should not be a substitute for making sure that British students get first dibs.

‘I think they are seen as a cash cow and I think that’s wrong.’

The Office for Students (OfS) said that while international students make an ‘important contribution’, it has signalled to universities that ‘over-reliance on fee income from international students may create financial risk’ for the institutions.

OfS interim chief executive Susan Lapworth said: ‘Universities are able to recruit as many UK students as they wish on to most of their courses. 

‘There are plenty of places available through clearing for UK students who have not yet secured a place for this year.

‘International students make an important contribution to academic and cultural life at universities in England and recruitment of international students ensures that less popular courses are able to run each year, giving UK students more choice.

‘We have signalled that over-reliance on fee income from international students may create financial risk for universities and we will continue to look at the impact of these recruitment patterns across the sector.’

A spokesman for Universities UK said domestic students still make up the vast majority of places on university courses but that the presence of international students ‘is something we should welcome, and the Government’s International Education Strategy has an ambition to host at least 600,000 international education students in the UK each year by 2030’.

He said international students ‘have a huge positive economic impact for towns and cities right across the UK’ and that their fees are invested back into a university’s activity ‘including teaching UK students – which ensures everyone can benefit from a high-quality experience’.

Manchester University told MailOnline that they only had a small number of courses available in clearing and they have now filled them all

Hundreds of thousands of pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who sat exams this summer for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, received their results on Thursday.

A-level grades for students across the UK dropped from pandemic highs, but remained above 2019 levels.

Of the record numbers in clearing this year, a spokesman for Ucas said there are various reasons why students are eligible to find a place in that system, including those who are ‘extremely savvy and are constantly assessing their options’ or those who have an offer confirmed but use clearing to make a new choice. 

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