‘Huge squeeze’: UK college candidates going through stiffest competitors in years | Larger training

Sixth-formers making use of to school this yr might face the hardest competitors for a decade, notably for programs similar to medication, with prestigious universities giving out fewer presents or requiring larger grades, admissions consultants say.

Because the deadline for functions for medication, veterinary science and dentistry approaches on 15 October, admissions officers are urging candidates to be cautious and reasonable with their functions and selection of “insurance coverage” presents.

This yr some selective universities have been left scrambling to search out sufficient bedrooms, seminar area and employees after hundreds of additional college students netted the excessive A-level grades they wanted to safe their place. With many college students already deferred from final yr, in addition to extra 18-year-olds within the system, universities say competitors will likely be fierce.

Dr Rohan Agarwal, founding father of UniAdmissions, a tutoring service that helps college students making use of to probably the most aggressive programs, says: “That is most likely going to be probably the most aggressive yr I’ve seen, and I’ve been doing this for nearly a decade. Final yr 20% extra pupils utilized to medical faculties.

“They are saying when there’s a struggle everybody needs to be a soldier. Effectively, when there’s a pandemic everybody needs to be a health care provider.” He predicts that the majority selections about whether or not to supply a spot will likely be made on college students’ efficiency at interviews, or in additional entrance exams. He says the hardest contest is more likely to happen in medication, however Russell Group universities will likely be turning away extra candidates this yr for different programs, too.

Some oversubscribed medical faculties supplied college students £10,000 to modify to a special college, after the surge in functions was adopted by a whole lot extra college students attaining the highest grades.

Exeter College supplied profitable medical college students £10,000 and a yr’s free lodging to defer till 2022, after the variety of profitable candidates with the course as their first selection shot up from 20% to 60%. There’ll now be appreciable additional stress on locations for the approaching yr.

Prof Ian Fussell, affiliate dean of training at Exeter’s medical college, says: “Medical faculties have had a really bumpy trip for the previous two years, so they may all be managing their admissions very fastidiously. College students ought to discuss to the colleges they wish to go to about what the state of affairs is that this yr, and assume flexibly.”

Fussell says college students wanting to review medication ought to count on steep competitors throughout the nation. “They might think about whether or not a yr out is likely to be acceptable for them, or whether or not they may undertake one other course previous to entry to medication,” he says.

Earlier Bristol college college students. Bristol has really useful this yr’s sixth-formers must be very reasonable if making use of. {Photograph}: Nick Riddle/College of Bristol

Ofqual, the exams regulator, mentioned final Thursday that 2022 could be a “transition yr”, with A-level grades not again to pre-pandemic ranges, and pupils receiving fewer prime grades than the 2021 cohort. Nevertheless, consultants say this alone won’t cease standard universities being additional cautious concerning the presents they make.

Andrew Hargreaves, founding father of dataHE, a consultancy that advises universities on admissions, says faculties ought to advocate to their college students that they apply for high-tariff programs at elite universities provided that they’ve a practical probability of getting the required grades. “Lecturers want to know that candidates have simply had a decade of a much less aggressive surroundings, however that’s altering. They should guarantee their college students are making acceptable functions.”

Hargreaves says it’s “affordable” for selective universities which have needed to take extra college students than they wished for the previous two years, to recruit fewer in 2022. “Some will likely be tight to the wire and follow their grade necessities precisely,” he says.

Locations in medication are capped by the federal government. However for the previous two years ministers have been compelled to supply emergency funding for brand new locations in medication to assist universities take care of the excess of profitable candidates. Universities need the federal government to not go away the planning to the final minute this yr, however to decide to additional locations lengthy earlier than outcomes are out.

Nevertheless, Fussell says that even with additional money, many universities will nonetheless be unable to increase their programs way more. “Our difficulty is round coaching placements,” he says. “We’ve received one hospital in Exeter, one in Cornwall and one in Barnstaple. Everyone seems to be already underneath such stress and you may’t simply immediately create additional area or coaching capability, even when there have been additional funding.”

There are issues about how this powerful competitors will have an effect on yr 13 college students, who’ve already had their training severely disrupted by the pandemic.

Liz Bowhay, whose daughter is within the remaining yr of sixth-form school in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, says: “This cohort have by no means sat a proper examination. She stayed after college for a revision lesson final March and got here house to find her GCSEs had been cancelled. She simply burst into tears.”

Bowhay says that, as a guardian, she may be very anxious concerning the additional competitors for college locations. However together with her daughter having an unworn promenade gown within the wardrobe, no date for her driving check, and her first expertise of faculty disrupted: “I haven’t actually mentioned it together with her as a result of I don’t wish to add to her worries.”

Lee Elliot Main, professor of social mobility at Exeter College, says: “The following two cohorts of A-level college students coming by way of now face main challenges: the massive squeeze on college locations created by the bulge in prime grades this yr, with many deferring for a yr, coupled with a harder grading system subsequent yr which can imply fewer A-grades and even fewer nonetheless the next yr.”

He’s anxious that these sitting A-levels subsequent yr could have no expertise of “excessive stakes” exams. He provides: “All this may doubtless hit probably the most deprived pupils the toughest, who could have missed most training through the pandemic.”

Kerry O’Shea, director of admissions on the College of Bristol, advises college students to pay cautious consideration to what universities are asking for, and be reasonable when making use of. “If you’re involved about assembly the entry necessities, that is likely to be a threat,” she says. She urges pupils to decide on a course that may be a real backup possibility for his or her “insurance coverage” selection in case they don’t get the grades they hope for.

College students from poorer backgrounds ought to, she provides, look out for schemes that may give them a serving to hand. “We make contextual presents to candidates from underrepresented teams which are two grades decrease than our customary supply,” she says.

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