Charlie Edwards is a rather nervous student, party activist and edits Political Promise, a youth political website.
Today, I will be walking into my school, picking up a brown envelope, reading a few letters on a slightly embossed piece of paper which will seal the fate of my future education prospects and, ultimately, my career. I am not alone. In fact, this year will see the greatest number of school leavers, and the repercussions of this have been the over-subscription to universities.
This year is “the great squeeze”. Cuts to courses and departments, threats of fines for those universities that over-recruit, a ‘mini-boom’ in UK births in 1991-1992, an influx of mature students - retraining after recession-provoked redundancies, mainly – and those who the system failed last year, have piled the pressure on my fellow school-leavers.
Why all the fuss? For example’s sake, let’s look at the story of Brian. Brian has a conditional offer of AAB from the University of Exeter to study French. If he receives an AAB today, then his next three years will be sat in the union bar on the cider. If the letters from his brown envelope are ABB, he will have to sit through the nerve-wracking, arduous and head-against-a-brick-wall process known as clearing. This is where Brian can see if other universities offering degree courses in French that have lower admission requirements have available places. Given there will be an estimated 20,000 of us in this predicament today, it will be crossed-fingers all round.
Luckily for Brian, French is a popular degree. I have applied to do Politics, Philosophy and Economics, which is only offered by ten universities. One of my friends wants to study Audiology. In these specialist areas, a year out may be the only option for this year’s lost thousands.
In years past, there were plenty available places and universities would bite your hand off for your custom. This year, the power firmly lies with the universities. For many students, you get what you are given. For universities, it has opened the door to opportunism.