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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Nervous time for uni admissions staff
university hopefuls
The waiting is almost over

University admissions officers are crossing their fingers that this year's A-level results turn up on time.

What's new
First year = AS-level
Second year = A2
AS + A2 results = A-level
AS-level is also a qualification in its own right
Many university offers use new points tariff

Last year, they say, some 50,000 results were late, disrupting the process of confirming their offers to students.

The exam boards say everything is on course for the results to go out as scheduled.

The process is made more complex this year by the widespread adoption for the first time of a new points "tariff" devised by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas).

Envelopes on doormats

Next week is school exam results week across the UK.

The Scottish Highers are due out on Tuesday; the A-level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland two days later.

The near-collapse of the Scottish system two years ago was well-publicised - and there are promises that the system is now much more robust and that all should be well.

What was not so widely reported last year was the lateness of many A-level results.


Students get their envelopes next Thursday, hoping they will have made the grades they need to take up their conditional offers of university places.

Most are not aware that the universities to which they have applied will already know their results - they get them on Sunday.

The secretary of the higher education registrars' Admissions Practitioners Group, Martine Somerville of Leeds Metropolitan University, said: "There were 50,000 missing results."

A total of 748,866 results were issued in 2001.

Mr Somerville said for the most part the delay was only a matter of days, but it did cause problems for universities as they worked out whether students had fulfilled their requirements.

The exam boards and Ucas had kept quiet about it and universities had not let on.

'On course'

"But we were not amused, to say the least - which is why we are a bit nervous now."

Most cases were resolved by the end of the week, "but it was a bit hairy", he said.

A-level facts
750 000 A-level results
1 million AS-level results
13,500 Vocational A-levels
36,000 Vocational AS-levels
47,000 Vocational A-level Double Awards
7,000 Advanced Extension Awards
25 million exam scripts and items of coursework
54,000 examiners and moderators

The A-level results are issued on behalf of the exam boards by the Joint Council for General Qualifications.

Its spokesman, George Turnbull, said the boards had met a few days ago to discuss the results "and they all gave confirmation that they would be there as planned".

He said last year was highly unusual, because of the Curriculum 2000 changes which saw the introduction of AS-levels.

The considerably increased workload for all involved continues this year, with the A2 results - the second part of the new A-level - being reported for the first time.

The joint council has also warned already that there could be some delays because of late entries on the part of schools and colleges.

Points for places

The new tariff system means most universities are now offering places on the basis of total points, rather than on predicted A-level grades.

A grade B at A-level or Advanced Higher, for instance, is assigned 100 points, a grade A at AS-level is worth 60 points.

In practice, Mr Somerville said, a typical conditional offer of a university place might ask someone to get 300 points, of which 120 were on their main subject A-level - an A grade - and 100 on a second A-level.

The rest could be made up from anything else on the tariff - which could include AS-levels from last year.

He said the new system made it easier for admissions officers to make conditional offers, but meant their calculations when the results come out next week would be more complicated.

Computers were poised to crunch the numbers "but we always anticipated it being a bit complex".

"This stage, of confirming offers and adding everything up, is definitely an awful lot harder for us."

Maths decline

It is estimated that about 70% of universities and colleges of higher education have adopted the system - with the more prestigious still relying on A and AS-level grades.

The University of Warwick is one of those which is not using the new tariff.

"It contains such a wider variety of ways of gaining points which we do not feel that we can use at this time in any way that would enhance our applications process," a spokesman said.

  • The results next week will show a marked fall in the numbers who took maths - because of the notoriously tough new AS-level last year.

    The AS-level, the first half of an A-level under the Curriculum 2000 changes, was failed by more than 28% of the 57,677 maths candidates.

    Many were deterred from retaking the exam, so it is known already that fewer proceeded into the second year of the course, the A2, to complete the full A-level.

  • See also:

    08 Aug 02 | Scotland
    28 Jun 02 | Education
    31 May 02 | Scotland
    11 Dec 99 | Education
    21 May 01 | Education
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