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A Level Results Show Drop in A Grades for First Time; Pass Rate, However, Goes up

By Periscope @periscopepost
A level results show drop in A grades for first time; pass rate, however, goes up Students in west London receive their exam results Photo credit: Hammersmith and Fulham

The background

All over England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 335,000 students are opening their A level results. Slightly fewer of them than last time will have got an A or an A* – it’s down from 27 per cent to 26.6 per cent. This intake of students will be the first to face university fees of up to £9,000 a year, reported the BBC, which has led to a fall in university applications of 7 per cent. In the battle of the sexes, girls continued to do better than boys – but this year, boys did better than girls in achieving the A* grades. It’s not all doom and gloom though – the overall pass rate has risen, for the 30th successive year. The usual chorus of comment attends these results: are A levels dumbing down? Have government cuts led to fewer people applying to university, scared of student debt? Shouldn’t we just celebrate the fact that people are doing well?

Poor people aren’t disadvantaged from university; this is a stepping stone to the rest of life

David Willetts in The Guardian congratulated the young students who’d worked so hard, and said that he expected a “better match between students and institutions this year.” Universities can now take as many AAB students as they like; more local provision has been provided at lower-cost institutions. Many students will now “be able to attend their first choice university.” Students, too, will have grants, fee waivers and bursaries; there will also be a “more progressive loan system.” Students will now expect more from institutions that they fund themselves. And, it doesn’t disadvanage the poor. “Young people should ignore the cynics and the grumblers.” Today is “a stepping stone to the rest of their lives.”

And we should be getting more people into university to compete with the rest of the world

Jon Coles in The Times said that actually, not enough pupils pass their A levels. Imagine if you had a product with a 2 per cent failure rate – you wouldn’t think that was good, would you? It’s weird that every year we say that not enough people fail their A levels. In fact, only a third of 19 year olds got two or more A levels – isn’t that more worrying? Instead of worrying about grade inflation, we should worry about “matching and exceeding those parts of the world that are getting better fastest.”

Go to university – but only if you want to

“So, the bastards have won this round,” said Laurie Penny in The Independent. Most universities are chargin £9,000 a year, making Higher Education look like “it was designed by a cut-throat consumer recasting of Thomas Gradgrind.” The betrayal of the Liberal Democrats is unlikely to be forgotten as the “best jobs and education are once more concentrated in the hands of those best able to afford the financial risks involved.” Higher education’s privatisation is a “scam”, anyway – getting a degree is no longer the way in to a good job. “Student debt … follows you into the grave.” Her advice, though, was that you should go to university – but “for the right reasons.” Go “because you love to learn.” Education is a “fundamental human right,” not “a luxury to be purchased.” So “enjoy your studies, and whatever you do, don’t let them win.”

A Level results day. Mr Cameron has failed Politics. Not exactly surprised.

— Prince Charles (@Charles_HRH) August 16, 2012

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