A-level top grades reach record high but students plead for uni tuition fee cut

10 August 2021, 13:58 | Updated: 10 August 2021, 14:24

By Asher McShane

Students heading into higher education have pleaded with university bosses to discount their tuition fees if they are forced to do either online-only or ‘blended learning’ as part of their course.

Young people told of their frustrations over being made to pay over £9,000 per year to study remotely.

On A-level results day, one student, Finley Jacobs-Roth, told LBC: “I just hope after seeing what came out today they respond and if it isn’t fully in person they don’t charge us the full amount.”

Finley’s comments come after a record proportion of students received top grades on A-level results day, with nearly 45 per cent being awarded an A or A*.

A total of 44.8% of entrants were awarded either an A or A*, up from 38.5% in 2020.

Nearly one in five (19.1%) entrants received an A*. This is another record high, and is up from around one in seven (14.3%) last year.

Some 88.5% received a C or above, up from 88.0% in 2020 and the highest since at least 2000.

READ MORE: A-level results day: Record levels of students receive A or A* grades

READ MORE: 'Why won't you tell me?' Gavin Williamson 'forgets' own A-Level results

Finley went on to say: “I also understand the Uni needs the money to survive. Probably a month ago Nottingham were emailing saying ‘look, we want you here, this is the plan.

"I’ve had a friend that just finished Nottingham so I know how they’ve done through the pandemic, I know it could be good, it could be bad. I know there were bad sides to it."

Students at Barton Peveril college in Eastleigh echoed the view.

Ryan Granger said: "I wouldn't think it's fair" to make students pay full tuition for online learning.

"I know friends who are in the year above me who have still had to pay the same tuition this year and obviously had a completely diminished experience," he said.

"I deferred my entry because I got an email to say that my course would be half taught online and half taught in person.

"I deferred because I wanted to have the full university experience."

Ella Clark told LBC: "I think if you are doing online learning there should definitely be a discount.

"For example my course is an acting course, it's purely practical. If it is going to be online that's going to be completely different to how it would be in person.

"I think definite discounts or maybe more guidance, more one-to-ones with the people that are applying."

Leeds university told LBC in a statement: "We expect to provide students with a substantial and sustained curriculum-based, on-campus experience next term.

"This means they will attend campus for face-to-face teaching activities such as seminars, tutorials, practical classes, group discussions and performance activities, as they’ll form an essential and significant part of the student experience".

This morning Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told LBC: “We’ve told universities they can do tuition, they can do lectures face-to-face, we want to see them do it.

“We have already asked the office for students, which is the regulator, to do everything they can do in order to put pressures on universities to be able to welcome students back into the lecture theatre.”

Hundreds of thousands of students woke up to their A-level results on Tuesday morning. This year's grades, like in 2020, were determined by teachers after the summer's exams were cancelled.

Girls extended their lead over boys in the top grades in this year's results, with female students overtaking male counterparts for the first time in maths.

The proportion of girls who achieved an A grade or higher was 46.9% - 4.8 percentage points higher than boys at 42.1%, figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show.

This widens the gap between the genders since last year when female students led their male peers by 3.2 points. Boys briefly took the lead in 2017 and 2018 after a long period in which girls had been ahead.

In maths, female students overtook their male counterparts for the first time this year in the number of A*s - with 29.1% of girls achieving the top grade, compared with 28.5% of boys.

Hundreds of thousands of students have been awarded grades determined by their teachers, rather than exams, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught during the pandemic.

Exam boards said that while it is difficult to know why female pupils have performed better than their male peers overall, there is evidence that girls often perform better in continuous assessment such as coursework.

Jill Duffy, chief executive of awarding body OCR, told a briefing with journalists that it was "very early to say exactly what the reasons are".

She added: "Previous research has shown that girls tend to perform better in more continuous assessment, boys tend to pull it out of the bag, if you like, when they come to an exam.

"But we also know the pandemic has had wider impacts not just on education but also on mental health, and recent reports have suggested that has hit young men more than females."

She added that the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) does not publish data for students who identify as non-binary but "it is something the exam boards are continuing to work to support in the future".