Shortage of university places, what it means and what to do


Clearing in the UK doesn’t finish until 30th September, but already it might as well have finished. There are very few places left and it begs the question, what has gone wrong this year, why is there such a shortage of university places? I knew it was looking bleak for clearing places, but heck!

My guess is that it’s a combination of government policy, new social mind sets and the recession. We’ve had over a decade of a Labour government that wanted everyone to go to university, but then changed the way universities are funded. If you’re going to try to get a significant proportion of school leavers to go to university it is obvious that you are going to need more university place and well funded universities to provide them. That’s a no on both scores in my opinion and the present government has already scraped some increases in places, doh!

It seems society has now evolved to match the government’s policy, and now it is just accepted that you go to university. If you do A-levels (and more people do now), then you are pretty much expected to go to university. I think practical skills and apprenticeships should be given the same promotion and, most importantly, the same social standing. It seems to me that someone joining a practical profession or apprenticeship after school or A-levels is looked down upon and the same person going on to university is lauded, it makes no sense. I have more respect for someone that decides to train as an electrician after school than to just join the herd off to university, and I know who will be in a better position in three years time!

The recession is probably key to the current shortage of university places. Small and medium sized businesses are suffering and university is a good place to sit it out. It also means companies are taking on less school leavers so staying in education makes sense. The only problem is, the universities couldn’t cope with the increased demand.

What can you do now you haven’t got a university place?

  • Apply for a place at a university abroad. Many top universities aren’t full and aren’t that far away really. I posted about a university in The Netherlands with places on its English language courses. That’s courses taught in English.
  • Get on an apprenticeship or other practical qualification. I bet you’ll be better off than some of your friends that go to university in the next three years!
  • Start your own business. Why not eh?
  • Wait for next year. Take re-sits if they will help, do volunteer work that could help your application next year or get a job in the industry/subject you want to study.

Here are some tips on what to do next year, because make no mistake, there will be a roll over effect to this year’s shortage:

  • Apply for less competitive subjects – Quote: “Everyone needs a back-up plan – for example, exclusively applying to medicine courses isn’t in a student’s interest, they should also apply for biomedical science, which is less competitive.”
  • Apply for less competitive universities.
  • Forget studying in the UK, our system is flawed, study abroad!
  • Consider an alternative to university. How about training in something else? Not all good and practical jobs require a university education 🙂

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