Cumbria Crack

New survey reveals three quarters of North West students worried about exam results

Student Deri Ford from Ulverston, Cumbria, lost out on her firm choice of university after discovering her initial grades weren’t as she’d expected. Luckily she had prepared a ‘Plan B’ and secured a place at Northumbria University to study a BA in Psychology.

[S]tudents in the North West are more worried they won’t get the results they need for their chosen university than in other parts of the UK. As A Level results day looms, three quarters (75%) of North West students fear they won’t get their grades, compared to 66% nationally.

With many students worried about achieving their target grades, the research, involving over 1,000 UK students and carried out on behalf of Northumbria University, Newcastle, also found there is a lack of understanding about the options available to them, including Clearing and Adjustment.

Despite the fact that nearly four in 10 North West students (38%) said they would use Clearing if they got worse grades than when they made their university choices, 41% also admitted they didn’t fully understand the Clearing process and the vital role it can play in helping students. This was similar to the national picture of 40%.

The process of Adjustment, which gives students the opportunity to swap their university place for one at a different institution if their results are better than expected, was understood by even fewer students. Nearly eight in 10 North West students (78%) said they don’t fully understand the process, close to the national figure of 79%. This is despite 28% of students in the North West expecting to do better in their exams than when they made their university choices and almost a quarter (24%) worried they have chosen the wrong course.

The survey looked at A Level and A Level equivalent student’s perceptions of the options available to them after receiving their exam results, as well as their hopes and aspirations, reasons for choosing the university they selected, and the factors that influenced their decision-making process.

The findings highlighted that finances were a key concern among students in the North West with 42% worried about making ends meet, slightly higher than the national figure of 39%.

Stephen Welsh, undergraduate marketing manager at Northumbria University, Newcastle, said: “There is a high degree of worry among North West students about getting the exam results they need but they aren’t, as a whole, fully aware of the Clearing and Adjustment process that follows results day, which can help them get onto a course that’s right for them, regardless of whether they do better or worse than expected.

“The Clearing process has changed significantly in recent years and the option to ‘trade up’ using Adjustment now gives students the ability to reconsider their original choice if they have done better than expected.

“We recognise how important it is as a university to provide students with clear and simple messages around the Clearing and Adjustment process and ensure they are supported through it appropriately.

“Given the enormity of results day, many students, unsurprisingly, feel overwhelmed, but the key is not to panic. We know students have put lots of careful thought into their decision, however options like Clearing and Adjustment give students more flexibility if they do better or worse than expected, and can match them to a university that best meets their needs and prepares them for a career path of their choice. There is plenty of support and advice out there, including financial help, from setting a budget to identifying additional funding available so don’t feel afraid to seek guidance on such matters.”

Key findings in the survey of A Level and A Level equivalent students in the North West were:

  • Just over half of students (52%) said they were worried they will not get into the university they want to – slightly higher than the national average of 47%.
  • 46% of students placed having a happy and healthy life among their top hopes and aspirations, 42% said they wanted to be financially comfortable and 34% wanted to be successful in their career.
  • Over a quarter (27%) were worried about leaving their friends and family – slightly lower than the national figure of 30%.
  • Eight in 10 students (80%) said they would still accept their existing offer even if they got better results, close to the national figure of 82%.
  • 27% of students chose their university because of its league ranking – compared to 24% nationally.
  • Just over half (51%) chose their course based on the quality of teaching standards and graduate job prospects and 41% felt the university’s facilities were important.
  • 38% of students would use Clearing if they got worse grades than expected – compared to 30% nationally.

With the first results from the new Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) published last summer, students applying to university this year have had even more information available to them to help them reach a decision.

Stephen Welsh added: “It is clear from Northumbria’s survey that teaching standards are high on the agenda for students when looking at where they want to study. There has never been a better opportunity to find out about teaching quality, and many other aspects of university life, with students better informed today than ever before when it comes to researching potential courses and universities.”

Clearing | An opportunity to study in Newcastle from Northumbria University on Vimeo.

Student Deri Ford from Ulverston, Cumbria, lost out on her firm choice of university after discovering her initial grades weren’t as she’d expected. Luckily she had prepared a ‘Plan B’ and secured a place at Northumbria University to study a BA in Psychology.

Deri said: “Applying through Clearing was so straightforward and I had confirmation of my place by lunchtime on results day. The staff on the helpline made it feel like a really simple process. I was so relieved that I could sort out my future in just a morning. The Clearing team who looked after my application took the stress right out of everything.

“When I got confirmation that I had a place through Clearing, it was such a relief. I’d already done my research so knew the University offered an excellent programme in Psychology, plus I’d visited a few times and just loved the city.”

The survey, commissioned by Northumbria University, involved a self-selected sample of A Level and A Level equivalent students (a total of 1,016 respondents) and was carried out in May 2018 by independent market research agency, Public Knowledge, a division of DRG. The survey was multiple choice and students were asked to select their top three answers to some of the questions, therefore some of the answers do not add up to 100%.

Northumbria University, Newcastle, has a limited number of places available for high quality students through Clearing this summer. The university offers a range of helpful hints and tips, available for students, parents and teachers, on its website and apps, including coping with stress in the days leading up to and on results day, advice for what to do before ringing your chosen university following your results as well as information about accommodation, student finance and health and wellbeing.

For more information, visit: or call the Clearing Hotline on 0800 085 1085 to speak to us about your application needs. You can also download the NU Clearing Guide Mobile App from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.


Top tips to remember when it comes to Clearing

  1. Check UCAS and university web pages to see what courses are available through Clearing and Adjustment. At Northumbria we’ll be updating our website with live information throughout the day at
  2. Have your UCAS personal ID number to hand, plus all of your qualifications to give the university all of the information they will need. If you know the name of the course you’re interested in, have the title and UCAS code to hand too.
  3. Consider all your options. Choosing the right university is a big decision and it’s important to think carefully before you commit. Don’t feel pressured to go for any option – it’s your choice.
  4. Always speak to the university yourself. They will have questions for you, and vice versa, and you’ll also be able to speak with subject tutors who will want to talk to you, not a parent.
  5. Make a note of your work and life experiences. These could prove very useful when you’re talking to the university if you can demonstrate additional skills that others may not have.
  6. You may be asked to come in for an interview or to share your portfolio of work. If so, you’ll need to note down the date, time and location of your interview, as well as who you’ll be meeting, or any instructions you are given about sending us your portfolio.

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