As school leavers navigate the confusion of the 2020 UK A Level grading, many are wondering how it will impact their university plans. Although international students are largely unaffected by the grading fiasco, they may also be curious if the situation could affect their place in UK universities.

The outcome of the government u-turn is that students were ultimately graded based on teacher assessments. This brought about improved A Level grades across the board, compared to previous years. UK universities have had to increase the capacity of upcoming intakes to accommodate the increased number of students who met their target grades. Does this translate to fewer university places for international students?

UK A Level u-turn will not affect international student placement

As noted by several British universities, international students secure their places before domestic students. School leavers in the UK confirm their place at university during Clearing period, which comes after A Level results are released. A University of Liverpool spokesperson told The PIE News that incoming international students would therefore have confirmed their places before the policy change.

A statement from the university read: “The university will honour all places offered to international students, some of whom may choose to study online with us for part of next academic year, where this is possible. All decisions on admissions have been made with a commitment to providing an excellent learning experience remaining our absolute priority.” Rachel Hewitt, Higher Education Policy Institute’s director of Policy and Advocacy, said universities have been “left in a difficult position” following the abrupt changes surrounding the UK A Level results this year.

“Calculating the number of places available this year has been made more complex by the fact more students will have met their entry requirements than in previous years, the late removal of the student number cap and the need to manage the number of students on campus to minimise the Covid-19 risks. Nonetheless, universities will be keen to ensure there are still places available for all those international students who are looking to come and study with them,” she elaborated.

Universities that cannot take in all domestic students who meet their offer criteria may offer deferred places for 2021/22. Andrew Howells, assistant director of External Affairs at UUKi, concurs. “The majority of international students will also be offer holders at this stage in the recruitment cycle, and universities are doing everything they can to ensure they are able to honour any offers made, where students meet the terms of that offer.”

He maintains that the UK is “well-placed” to welcome international students in 2020/21. Nevertheless, universities are anticipating a drop in international student enrolment in view of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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