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Perse Head: A Level pressure can only increase August 16, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.

The third Thursday in August is A Level results day in the UK – and educational observers and experts are predicting a somewhat chaotic scene this time around.

A record 200,000 students could miss out on a place at university this year, despite the government creating extra places.

An 11 per cent surge in applications could leave ‘a significant number’ of young people disappointed, higher education minister David Willetts has said. With A-level results due on Thursday, Mr Willetts said: “It is going to be very tough this year, I don’t disguise that. Last year there were 160,000 young people who applied and didn’t get a place. It could be a greater number this year.”

Edward Elliott, Head of The Perse School, Cambridge, told us in his piece 2010 and beyond in the editorial section of this year’s Which London School? & the South-East, that the problem could get worse over the next decade.

Budget cuts will have a negative impact on higher education, and universities will reduce the number of undergraduate places available to cut costs. A combination of continuing A Level grade inflation, (no self-respecting educational minister will want to preside over the first fall in A Level grades in 20 years), and fewer undergraduate places will make it even more difficult to get into the top British universities.

Independent schools will react by spending even more time and resources, assiduously preparing their pupils for university admissions tests and interviews, and gathering intelligence on how university selection processes really work.

This skilful student preparation will more than offset any social engineering which the government may require admissions tutors to carry out, and when coupled with the higher examinations grades achieved in the independent sector will ensure that the majority of independently educated pupils get into their first choice university.

This said, an increasing number of independent pupils may look at the British university sector and decide to apply to North American institutions instead (where costs can be similar and arguably the education better). Independent school students are by definition sophisticated consumers of education, and they will want to select the best undergraduate courses on offer wherever that may be.

The globalisation of higher education for undergraduates is here to stay…



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