As dozens of joyful and tearful teenagers across the country find out their fate this morning, only 411,860 have taken up places so far – less than last year.
Amid celebrations and commiserations for sixth-formers Ucas figures revealed the acceptance figures are down 1 per cent from the same point 12 months ago.
It comes as young people increasingly feel that getting a degree is less important and instead plan to head straight into the workplace.
But for the thousands who did apply, they have been nervously checking their results online, and racing down to their schools and colleges to find out how they did.
Despite the drop in acceptance number, figures show the UK's youth has been successful – with more than one in four exams results were A or A*s this year.
Boys continue to outperform girls at the highest grades, figures show, with 26.6 per cent of boys' entries awarded at least an A grade, compared to 26.2 per cent for entries from their female peers.
And in total, 26.4 per cent of UK entries were given one of the two top grades – up 0.1 percentage points on 2017.
It is the second year in a row that the A*-A pass rate has risen, as the overall A*-E pass rate has also fallen 0.3 percentage points to 97.6 per cent – the lowest level since 2010.
The figures come in the wake of a major exams overhaul – with 24 A-level subjects now reformed.
One happy teen leading the boys' efforts to storm ahead of the girls, with a clean sweep of five A* grades, will fulfil a childhood dream of studying at Cambridge University.
Jack Parkinson, from Thorne, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, will read computer science after his top performance in mathematics, further mathematics, computer science, physics and the extended project qualification (EPQ).
The 18-year-old said: "After the summer school, I decided I really wanted to go there and I've been focused on that ever since.
"I'm really looking forward to being around people who have similar interests to me."
And an 18-year-old GB kayaker achieved four A-levels while training for his sport's world marathon championships.
Luke Shaw sat his exams at Norwich School and gained an A* in maths, A grades in chemistry and politics and a B in further maths.
He has an unconditional offer to the University of Nottingham where he plans to study economics, potentially with Spanish.
As results pour in for this year's reformed exams, Rachael Warwick, executive headteacher of Didcot Girls' School in Oxfordshire, attacked the changes brought in by the government.
She said they were seen as unnecessary by many in the profession and the speed at which they had been brought in made them "difficult" to implement.
She told BBC Radio 4's Today: "It has put schools and colleges under immense pressure.
"Personally I question why that was done and certainly the speed and quality of implementation had a lot to be desired.
"We would certainly expect in the future a more measured approach to curriculum reform from the Government, and a period of stability."
Do young people want to go to university?
A poll by the Sutton Trust, which questioned around 2,300 children aged 11-16 in England and Wales, found that three-quarters (75%) think it is important to go to university, down from 78% last year and a high of 86% in 2013.
More than three in four (77%) of those surveyed this year said they are likely to go into higher education.
Figures published by Ucas in July showed that young people in England are more likely to apply to go to university than ever.
More than a third (38.1%) of 18-year-olds across the country have applied this year, up 0.2 percentage points on last year.
Of the young people who said they they are unlikely to go into higher education, the most common reason was that they do not like the idea or do not enjoy learning and studying (58%), followed by finance (44%).
More than a third (35%) said they feel they are not clever enough, while the same proportion said it was not needed for their job plans.
Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: "It's no surprise that there has been a fall in the proportion of young people who think it's important to go into higher education.
"Young people face a dilemma. If they go on to university they incur debts of over £50,000 and will be paying back their loans well into middle age. And in a number of cases they end up with degrees that don't get them into graduate jobs.
"On the other hand, degree-level apprenticeships are almost non-existent with less than 10,000 available each year compared with over 300,000 university places. There is effectively no viable alternative to university."
Jeremy Clarkson had some words of advice for students who fell short of what they hoped to get.
He tweeted: "Don't worry if your A Level grades aren't any good. I got a C and 2 Us.
"And I'm sitting here deciding which of my Range Rovers to use today."
And ITV news anchor Alastair Stewart also wished students good luck.
He wrote: "However you do, remember: in 5 years they won't matter too much; in ten, not at all; in 20, they'll probably be called something else."
Boys have outperformed girls at the top A-level grade for the first time since it was introduced in Northern Ireland.
They overtook girls by 0.4 per cent at the A* grade, which was first awarded in 2010.
The performance gap between the genders also narrowed at the A*-A grade boundary, and it follows concerted efforts to address the disparity by education authorities.
Last year, 26.3 per cent of A-levels scored an A or A*, national figures showed, and the results were predicted to be broadly similar again this year.
There have been major changes to A-levels in England, with a move away from coursework and modular exams throughout the course.
A Department for Education spokesman said "university isn't for everyone" and the Government does not want one route to a career "to be considered better than any other".
"That is why we are transforming technical education in this country to put it on a par with our amazing academic system," he said.
Students who haven't got the results they hoped for can try their luck through clearing.
The process works by helping students find out what university courses still have places remaining.
Hopefuls are able to search for a course against the subject they are interested in, or the university they want to head to.
Source: Read Full Article