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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Record numbers await exam results
A-level results
Universities are offering more places than ever before
A record number of exam results are to be announced in the next fortnight - as the new AS-level qualification is added to the increasing number of students taking GCSEs.

On Thursday, the results of 1.6 million A-levels and the first-ever AS-levels will be delivered to students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - with GCSE results to be published the following week.

And for the first time, any appeals against exam results can lead to grades being lowered as well as raised, if the appeals board believes the original marks to have been over-generous.

Bill Morton
Bill Morton promises no repeat of last year's exam problems in Scotland

In previous years the pass rate at A-level has shown a consistent upward trend, with the percentage gaining grades A to E rising steadily from 78% in 1991 to 89.5% last year.

The numbers gaining A grades has also risen, from 11.9% in 1991 to 18.1% last year.

The record number of results is also likely to lead to a record number of students entering university - as admissions statistics suggest that many universities still have places available.

More places than students

While applications for university have increased only marginally in England, the Higher Education Funding Council for England says that there will be another 30,000 places available for students this autumn.

This could see universities struggling to fill courses - and raises the prospect of greater choice and a lower results threshold for students seeking university places.

Numbers of students entering university have continued to rise - up from 271,000 in 1994 to 340,000 last year, with further increases projected.

This week's AS-level results will see the latest stage in what has been a turbulent first year for the new qualification, which will usually be taken in the first year of sixth form.

There have been warning signs of further disputes over how the results are presented.

Last week, head teachers wrote to the education secretary warning that any attempt to show an overall, national result for AS-levels would present a false picture.

This is because students who have taken AS-levels can choose not to "cash in" these exams - which in effect allows them to nullify their participation and to exclude their results from any overview.

The first exam results to be announced this summer will be in Scotland, where the results of Highers and Standards will be received by students on Tuesday.

Bill Morton, chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, has promised that there will not be a repeat of last year's problems, in which thousands of students received inaccurate or incomplete results.

And while last year there were problems with delayed results, this year it seems that some students are getting their results early - with a number having had their results delivered on Monday.

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See also:

12 Aug 01 | Scotland
Exams boss answers his critics
09 Aug 01 | Education
'Distorted' exam results warning
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