Coronavirus: Most A-level students won't sit 2020 exams

Study finds nearly nine in 10 applicants to university have not changed their mind about starting courses this autumn

Catherine Lough

university students

Just 5 per cent of A-level students are planning to sit their exams in the autumn according to a new survey, with the majority planning to start university courses this year.

The joint Ucas and YouthSight survey of 500 applicants found that nearly nine in 10 – 86 per cent – of respondents said they were continuing with their application as planned.


Coronavirus: Cap on university admissions mooted

Coronavirus: Unconditional offers 'paused' for 2 weeks

Coronavirus: Exams are cancelled – so what next?


Nearly two thirds of respondents – 60 per cent – said they had chosen their firm offer for their university place, with most choosing a conditional offer dependent on achievement of certain grades. 

Over a quarter of respondents – 27 per cent – said they had received all of their offers but were waiting to make a firm choice where deadlines have been extended to give students more time to select their preferred offer.

"Overall applicant behaviour in the 2020 cycle is currently consistent with previous cycles, with the expected number of new applicants each week, and no significant moves to change firm choices or providers, or to defer entry, so far," a statement from Ucas said.

More than half of respondents – 51 per cent – said they felt supported at the moment but would like more help. Nearly two in five – 37 per cent – reported that they felt fully supported with their applications, but this was higher among white applicants – 40 per cent – than BAME applicants, where 29 per cent said they felt fully supported.

Clare Marchant, Ucas chief executive, said: "Our immediate insight during these extraordinary circumstances shows students are keeping their sights on the exciting futures that lie ahead for them at university or college.

"With additional flexibility already introduced into this year’s application cycle, everyone should take the time they need to confidently make considered, fully thought through decisions."

"We are dynamically keeping students informed online, through social media platforms and personalised emails, plus our team are on hand for individual help.

"With fewer young people in the UK’s population this year, there will be plenty of places available and there is no need to rush and risk making a rash decision. Clearing will also be a great opportunity to explore alternative options later in the summer."

Josephine Hansom, managing director of Insight at YouthSight said: "Our joint research shows how attractive university remains, with students still aiming high and thinking about their futures. Having the right support is an issue for some though, especially those from BAME backgrounds."

"The online information provided by Ucas and universities is rightly being prioritised by current applicants, though it cannot be underestimated the importance students place on the individual support they receive from those who know them best, especially in these trying times."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are pleased to see that most applicants have not changed their mind about wanting to start university or college this autumn, and we would emphasise that there is no need for anybody to alter their plans.

"The decision to cancel exams will have been extremely unsettling. But we can reassure students that everything possible is being done to ensure they are awarded grades as fairly and consistently as possible through a system of moderated assessment, and that they will be able to progress to the next stage of their education in the normal way.

"The grade they will be awarded this year will be just as valid as in any other year.”

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

Latest stories