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Warning from UK Universities Chief – Think carefully before deferring your university place…. next year’s competition may be worse still

Graduating students today are being warned to think very carefully about deferring university to next year. This year students face a hugely constricted supply of available places – but it’s going to be even worse next year according to Chris Hale, interim chief executive of Universities UK. In a story flooding the world’s media, Mr Hale warns that:

“Next year, I think, there is growing demand for higher education, so it’s going to continue to be as competitive, so my advice would be to think very carefully about deferring.”

The British government and its qualifications regulator Ofqual have already warned students that grades will be down this year compared with last year’s teacher-assessed pandemic grading as British education gets to grips with grade inflation. Almost 40% of students are likely to use the clearing system to get a place on a course today as students miss out on their predicted grades.

Mr Hale explained:

“There’s big demand for university places this year. But if you are thinking of deferring and going to university next year, make sure you talk to your school, make sure you talk to your parents, your counsellors and those closest to you and just think through that decision.”

More on the storm of issues faced by this year’s A Level students receiving their results can be found here.

Do not defer university warning as places constrict and shortage extends to 2023

In a report published at the weekend, Professor Alan Smithers, Director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, predicted 80,000 fewer top grades – A* or A – awarded than in 2021 leaving more than 40,000 students missing out on their course or university of choice.


The warning over deferring places is backed by other experts including Jim Dickinson, who reported to the British broadsheet The Times:

“Those who don’t get into their first-choice university would be taking a massive gamble if they took a year out rather than finding an alternative in clearing, unless they are certain to be in the top three graduate earning deciles.”

The new advice is at odds with alternative views that, with stagnation in graduate employment and declining wages, many graduating students today would be much better placed if they looked for employment opportunities with their new A Level qualifications in industry through a gap year. Around 30,000 students each year choose to take gap years before attending British universities.

Students can defer a course for a year whilst applying, or after receiving results the summer before they are due to start studying.

Not all universities and courses allow students to defer their places.  You can request universities to defer but there is no guarantee that they will accept.

If your university does not accept your deferral request you will need to reapply in the following UCAS admissions cycle. There’s no guarantee that the same university will award you a place the following year.

If you gain a university place through Clearing you will not be able to then defer that place for one year. Clearing is just for students looking to begin their studies the same year.

Worth noting that British universities usually let you defer for one year only.

In all this confusion, consensus is now emerging that Degree Apprenticeships are increasingly the most attractive option for students set on an eventual career in industry. More on degree apprenticeships can be found here.

© A WhichMedia Group publication. 2022. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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