Top A-level grades have increased for the first time in six years, as teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland get their results.
A* and A grades were awarded to 26.3 per cent of entries – up by 0.5 percentage points compared with last year.
There was a small drop in the top grades for 13 subjects in England with new content and now judged by final exams, but the gender gap narrowed.
The number of university places allocated so far has fallen. The Ucas university admissions body says that 416,000 places have so far been confirmed – down two per cent on last year – reflecting a dip in the number of 18-year-olds in the UK.
The number of students from European Union countries has fallen by three per cent compared with last year.
Many universities, including in the prestigious Russell Group, will still have places on offer through the clearing system, which matches people looking for places with vacancies on courses.
The national results have been kept similar to last year asides from the changes to the qualifications system, with over a quarter of entries receiving top grades. The proportion of the highest A* grades has nudged up by 0.2 per cent to 8.3 per cent. The overall A* to E pass rate is marginally down at 97.9 per cent.
But in those new-style A-level subjects, including history, English, psychology, physics, chemistry and biology, there were 0.7 per cent fewer A* and A grades overall. Some 24.3 per cent of entries attained the top grades in these subjects.
Exam boards said the fall in results mainly due to a lower achieving group of candidates taking these subjects, rather than the fact that the exams had been made “more challenging”.
19-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai also acquired a place studying philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford.
Commenting on the figures, David Willett, Director at The Open University, said:
“The 2 per cent decrease in students taking up university places provides employers with the opportunity to unlock the potential of young talent. Research we recently commissioned shows that 50 per cent of employers are already making use of the apprenticeship levy, including higher and degree apprenticeships, so young people entering the workplace this year will have plenty of career and training opportunities available to them, enabling both organisational and individual development.
“With rising A-Level results, there is no shortage of talent among those entering the workforce. Employers who are able to implement a life-long learning structure will reap the benefits of investing in the skills of young staff through effective use of work-based learning, as well as future-proofing their businesses so they’re adaptable to change.”