Anxious Wait As A-Level Students Get Results

Richard Suchet, Sky News Reporter

A-level students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are finding out what their futures hold as they pick up their results.

Last year, pass rates dropped for the first time in more than 30 years - 98% of exams scored at least an E grade, down by 0.1%.

But even if that trend continues, a record number of young people will earn a place on a university course after the Government abolished the cap on the number of places that institutions can offer.

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Most of those students who fail to get their requisite grades will go into the clearing system, which allows them to apply for vacant courses.

The Universities of Bath, Oxford and Cambridge have already filled their places and will not be entering the process.

A potentially limitless number of places means competition between universities is as fierce as ever, and lower grade offers are likely to be made as a result.

With tuition fees now at £9,000 per year, there are concerns that many students will saddle themselves with huge debts that will take them decades to pay off.

So while a record number of people have applied to university this year, an increasing number are looking for alternatives like apprenticeships and training schemes.

Westminster Kingsway College student Gintare Lensbergaite, 18, is hoping to get an A and two Bs in maths, business and economics but she is not going to university.

She has been awarded a paid apprenticeship at the Bank of England.

She told Sky News: "I definitely think the apprenticeship route is equal to university because I think, by the end, these people who have gone to university will probably struggle to get a job at the Bank of England.

"For me to come into a job that's for a lifetime means I'll be able to progress my career a lot better than I would have done if I had gone to uni, never mind all the debt I'd have been in and I'll be earning money at the same time."

The Government has pledged to create three million apprenticeship schemes by the end of this Parliament.

A survey for the National Union of Students found 1 in 20 graduates would not go to university if they had their time again because of the cost of studying and the level of debt incurred.

Almost half think their standard of living will be affected by the cost of repaying their student loan.

In a separate poll, the NUS found 91% of 16-18-year-olds are concerned about the financial implications of going to university.

Last year, 512,000 people secured a place at university or college through UCAS, with 61,300 students being accepted through clearing.