In a rare, if controversial twist, a private school teacher has claimed on British radio station LBC that children who are educated in private schools are still best placed to get the university places they aspire to because students who do not secure places this year for their chosen courses “will have parents who can afford to cover the costs of deferring.” The claim too is that the British Government deliberately baked in advantage for private schools which they knew were better placed with resources to ride the challenges of distance learning and the pandemic. “university classes will be the least diverse we’ve ever seen” and “the most privileged.”
40,000 candidates are predicted to be rejected by their first choice if they miss a grade, with one estimate showing there will be 80,000 fewer As and A*s than last year.
The crisis in places has been caused by a growth in the number of school leavers – but also universities over-recruiting last year in the chaos of pandemic grading and awarding places to high paying international students who have not secured Home Fee status. Many parents in the UAE have secured Home Fee status which can reduce fees by two thirds – and by hundreds of thousands of pounds in the case of degrees like Medicine. In a year that available places are constricting, the decision to secure Home Fee status by UAE parents may remove the advantage full-fee paying students are now said to be enjoying.
UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant has fought back against growing criticism “of a crisis of the government’s own making” by arguing that the British government’s policy of lowering grade inflation this year so that results return to pre-lockdown levels was necessary and “a return to either an intermediary position or, as Ofqual said, a midpoint, was never going to be pain-free.”
Many commentators argue, however, that they have moved too fast, universities were not yet recovered from pandemic oversubscription resulting from grade inflation – and that the result is that this year’s A Level graduates are being unfairly treated with many facing suffering the consequences for years to come. The crisis facing students today has seen a constriction of places in Clearing with Russell Group universities offering only around a third of the courses on offer compared with 2019 according to the British broadsheet The Times.
In a confusion of mixed messages, students are at the same time being bombarded with warnings not to defer places until 2023 as the constriction in available places will not lessen next year – but many students may have no choice. What no one is advising, however, is that students take on second best courses just to get to university – taking on an average of £50,000 debt in the process.
It’s also clear that new moves by universities to prioritise students from state schools is creating a toxic environment in which students and families are being set against each other – helping no one. It is not at all the case that parents in UAE private schools are all wealthy – and able to cover the cost of students deferring at the drop of a hat.
There are risks that this year’s potential constriction of places, positive discrimination against privately educated students and university grans for high fee paying university students will begin to see even more students deliberately choosing not to study in the UK in favour of a US universities in particular, a trend that has been growing in recent years.
More on the claimed advantage can be found here
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