Take care to choose the right university place

Stuart Nicholson, Principal of Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies
Stuart Nicholson, Principal of Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies

Although students at CCSS have this year achieved excellent results (40% A*/A 62% A*-B and 84% A*-C), advice to students across the country who have not got their offers is that they need to be choosy when it comes to alternatives through clearing.

CCSS Principal, Stuart Nicholson, congratulated CCSS students and teachers. “It has been very encouraging that students and teachers’ efforts have been rewarded. These results reflect another improvement in performance, despite the scaremongering about the impact of the new A level specifications and examinations.”

One student, Niamh Hodges, achieved A* grades in each of History, Economics and Psychology and has a place to study Social Anthropology at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. A delighted Niamh, who ultimately wants to work in social research, said: “The teachers at CCSS encouraged an independent style of learning, which is vital preparation for university.” Matching Niamh’s haul of grades, Kene Ezeonyim heads to Imperial College, London to read Engineering. Hannah Ruskin-Dodd applied independently for a scholarship at CCSS two years ago to give herself the best chance of getting to a top university to read Astrophysics – and has fulfilled this dream with a place at St Andrews.

However, he had careful advice for anyone looking at offers in clearing saying that students hoping to get university places this way should be careful not to be rushed into accepting an unsuitable place.

“With the government removing the cap on the number of places universities, can offer along with a dip in the number of 18-year-olds in the population, it’s a buyer’s market this year so students shouldn’t rush into accepting the first offer that comes along,” he said. “Even top Russell Group universities are now offering places via Clearing so there are good places to be had, but only if it’s right for the student.”

Last year more than a tenth of university places were filled via Clearing, with more expected this year. “It’s proven that students who receive offers via Clearing have a higher drop-out rate and often that’s because they rush into a choice that might be the wrong course, the wrong university or end up with accommodation they are not happy with,” says Mr Nicholson. “Having said that, many universities are better prepared this year, including opening phone lines before results day, offering different ways to communicate, such as via WhatsApp or Facebook, and more staff on hand to offer advice. Hopefully there will also be fewer of the ‘incentives’ such as free laptops and travel passes on offer to cloud students’ judgments.”

Another issue reported recently is that many of the best places are allegedly snapped up by middle class students and parents who are most familiar with the system. According to the charity the Sutton Trust, wealthier students and their parents are shopping around in clearing to the detriment of their less well-off peers who are less clear about how the system works.

“If it is true”, says Mr Nicholson, “this is disappointing, as all schools have a responsibility to ensure that their students understand the clearing system. It’s not parents who ring universities, it’s students – parents can encourage and help think through the decisions, but it’s the student who needs to act. “

If students don’t feel right about places it may be best to delay going to university advises Mr Nicholson: “We’ve seen many students come to CCSS to retake subjects in a year and then go on to find the right place and ultimately the right career for them. Students taking the 1-year A level course at CCSS this year, which includes a number retaking A Levels, did extremely well with a 100% pass rate and overall grade rates of 49% A*/A 73% A*-B and 93% A*-C. One student took the U grade he got at his previous school to an A grade at CCSS! “

Where to look next:

  • To find out more about our A Level and GCSE courses, click here
  • We have possibly the best boarding in the UK – have a look at boarding at CCSS
  • Our student profiles give you an insight into what life is like for students at CCSS
  • If you’re interested in seeing which universities our students go to, click here.

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