Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, explains how the AAB+ changes will affect students
You may be surprised to hear that universities cannot simply take as many students as they would like. The number of undergraduates universities can admit is largely set by government so they can keep a handle on the amount of public money spent on loans and maintenance grants. If universities are over this limit – or under it – they are heavily fined.
What has changed?
AAB+ is shorthand for one change to this system. This year, universities in England are able to recruit as many students with AAB+ grades at A-level (or equivalent) as they want to take, and are able to attract. Universities think very carefully about how many students they can admit and the quality of the student experience is foremost in their considerations. Not all universities will want to expand. Crowded labs and oversubscribed accommodation would be bad for students and universities alike.
What does this mean for applicants?
Because this is a new system, it is much more difficult to predict exactly what will happen this year. Universities UK will be monitoring the situation very carefully to ensure students are not disadvantaged by the changes.
However, the idea is that applicants with AAB+ could have more choice about where to go because universities will be permitted to take an unlimited number of students with those grades. UCAS has a useful table on its website to help applicants determine whether they fit into this category.
What if you do better than your predicted grades?
If you do better than you expected and you want to see if you can get a place on another course, you can use the Adjustment period to look at your options (as in previous years).
What if you don’t get your predicted AAB+ grades?
For those students who didn’t get their predicted AAB+ grades, your chosen university may still be able to accept you on your course. However, there is the possibility that they won’t be able to give you a place because they will have already filled their places below AAB+ (which are part of the limited numbers and can’t be exceeded). They may be able to offer you a deferred place – if they do, you may want to take this or think of looking elsewhere.
What if you do get your predicted AAB+grades?
For applicants whose grades meet their offers, this year should work the same as ever other: you will be offered a place via the usual UCAS system.
If you don’t get the grades for your place, regardless of whether you’re predicted AAB+ or not, don’t panic! Clearing will be in operation and if you have reasonable grades, you’ve got a good chance to get on a course that suits you. Last year, 50,000 people were placed during Clearing, which suggests there are some fantastic courses and universities available.
Think your options over
Take the time to speak to experts at UCAS and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to universities’ admissions staff directly. Get as much advice as you can and take time to think. That’s what they are there for!
Be prepared to think laterally. Could you see yourself doing a slightly different course, perhaps at the same university or a similar course but in another part of the country? Being prepared to adapt will be a great help if you need to re-think your options.
And remember, for most applicants, these system changes will make no difference to how it works for you. If you fulfil the terms of your offer, you will get your place.