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West Norfolk university centre reports 75 per cent drop in clearing calls as A-level row continues

Education officials in West Norfolk say there has been a massive drop in the number of students inquiring about degree courses here, despite the A-level results crisis.

The revelation from the University Centre West Anglia (UCWA) came as a senior academic urged students to shop around following the grades, which saw nearly 40 per cent of all marks downgraded.

And the system has been thrown into further chaos this afternoon by a U-turn allowing grades to be based on teachers’ assessments.

The University Centre West Anglia in Lynn
The University Centre West Anglia in Lynn

Many students have been forced into the process known as clearing since the publication of the A-level results, which were compiled after the cancellation of exams due to the coronavirus pandemic, last Thursday.

But officials from the UCWA, which is based at the College of West Anglia’s Lynn campus, said there has, so far, been a 75 per cent fall in inquiries for its courses compared with the same time last year.

The centre provides degree programmes in a wide range of subjects, which are administered by Anglia Ruskin University.

Officials believe more inquiries may follow over the coming weeks, even after today's announcement that A-level and GCSE grades will now be based solely on teacher assessments and not subject to external moderation.

But a CWA spokesman said: “We don’t rely on clearing. It’s never been a huge part of our numbers. We’re talking about 10 or 20 maximum. It’s not going to put any of our offer into jeopardy.”

Meanwhile, Professor Richard Harvey, academic director of admissions at the University of East Anglia, said there is likely to be more choice available to students this year and there is time to look at a number of options before taking up a place.

Speaking ahead of the government U-turn, he said: “Because different countries are in different stages of lockdown, universities are predicting international student numbers to be markedly down.

“This may mean they make up numbers with UK students so it’s definitely good news for applicants this year as there’ll be more places, at more universities, and ultimately more choice and opportunity.”

He added: “The best advice I can give to students is that if you are interested in studying at university, get in touch through Clearing and do any appeals process in parallel if you want or need to.”

The UCWA clearing hotline remains open on 01553 815650.

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