Newly released figures have revealed that over half of students achieving AAB or better at A Level are concentrated in just twelve universities.
The data, made available for the first time by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, demonstrated that in 2010, 26,121 out of 50,712 students obtaining a minimum of AAB took up places at twelve English universities. The remaining students attended 145 other higher education institutions.
The figures suggest that this small number of institutions will be best placed to benefit from government higher education reforms. Recent government proposals reveal that the coalition intends to allow institutions to expand in order to take on an ‘unlimited’ number of students achieving grades AAB or higher at A-level from 2012 onwards. This is estimated to include about 65,000 students next year.
The universities that are able to attract AAB candidates will not be restricted by the recruitment cap that would otherwise be imposed. At present, these candidates are concentrated in the following twelve universities: Manchester, Durham, Oxford, Cambridge, Nottingham, Leeds, Exeter, Bristol, Warwick, Birmingham, Sheffield and Southampton.
With these institutions best placed to take advantage of government reforms, higher education commentators have voiced their fears that the changes could lead to the creation of an elite English “Ivy League”, reflective of the American higher education systems. Sir Steve Smith, president of Universities UK, further warned that such a grade-driven approach would risk alienating students from poorer backgrounds less likely to achieve high grades.