The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Clearing chaos leaves universities struggling

As numbers of successful university applicants fall, institutions struggle to fill the empty places

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Accepted university applicants have dropped by almost 30,000 compared to last year according to data released by UCAS.

Institutions have been forced to lower entry requirements by multiple grades to fill the places but many have still failed to meet targets and there are fears that some subjects could be abolished in the future.

Don Nutbeam, vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton, revealed that his institution had taken 600 less students than last year, and described the news as a “wake-up call” for all universities.

A spokesperson for the university complained about a government policy which has forced all UK universities to limit the intake of students below AAB grades this year.

“Surely it cannot be right that leading universities such as Southampton are forced to turn away gifted ABB students, who in any other year would be accepted immediately.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, admitted that “recruitment onto some undergraduate programmes was disappointing” and that they “will be below our target for home (UK and EU) students”.

She noted that they “will be looking closely at the distribution of our student numbers and are initiating a detailed ‘portfolio review’ to consider student demand and how we respond to this”.

The number of students awarded A or A* grades failed to rise for the first time in twenty years, instead slumping to 26.6%. This fall of 0.4 points from last year’s results is the most severe in the history of A-levels.

This year saw total applications for universities drop by 7.7% and a lot of students counted as eligible for clearing by UCAS have not taken the opportunity to apply.

It is suggested that this is due to the tuition fee rise, as highlighted in a YouGov poll taken just after A-level results day. The poll found 53% of the public did not believe university to be worth £9,000 a year, with only 30% believing it is.

There are also concerns that A-level predictions may have been inflated by teachers to give students better chances of receiving offers.

Elite research-intensive universities, including Warwick, Leeds and Durham, were also forced to use clearing to fill places.

Chris Bunting, press officer for the University of Leeds, said that the situation regarding clearing remained “unclear”.