DURHAM University has become the first in the UK to offer CASH to students to defer their studies by a year following the A-level fiasco.
It comes as the government's U-turn on exam results has sparked fresh chaos for many universities struggling to cope with an unforeseen surge in admissions.
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Durham has promised to accept all offers met by prospective undergraduate students, but has said it will provide financial incentives to those willing to take a year off.
In an email sent to students and posted on its website, Durham admitted that there were “capacity issues caused by this unprecedented situation” – meaning that some pupils who met their offer after the government’s U-turn could have to wait a year to begin their studies.
They said: “It is possible that some offer holders… will have to defer entry to 2021 in order to enrol at Durham University.”
But those willing to defer for a year would be given bursaries “to help with their transition to university life” as well as guaranteed accommodation, the university said.
It comes as leading universities scramble to cope with a significant increase in admissions after the government’s dramatic U-turn on Monday.
Students are now able to use their teachers’ recommended grades if they are higher than the grades issued to them on Results Day – which were determined by a controversial algorithm designed by exam regulator Ofqual.
But there are fears that many lower-ranked universities could lose out on a significant chunk of their student intake as prospective undergraduates prioritise their first-choice offers.
Some 1,500 students missed out on Oxbridge places on Results Day – but are now likely to get the spot with their new results and look to start this autumn.
Numbers are also strictly capped on certain courses such as medicine or dentistry, meaning some students might not be admitted this year.
It comes after Sixth Formers took to the streets to furiously protest the A-levels debacle over the weekend.
Around 39% of students had results downgraded by the Ofqual algorithm – with many missing out on university places as a result.
Universities face legal action should they deny a place to students who have met their offer, but hope that a financial incentive could prevent this from happening, the Telegraph reports.
There are concerns that, with an increasing number of students, it will be more difficult for universities to ensure social distancing and other measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Mary Curnock Cook, formerly UCAS chief executive, told the BBC kids could have to take gap years because there simply isn't enough places at universities now.
She said: "There are literally tens of thousands of students who decisions have already been made about who they accept and don't accept.
"This change will mean that universities have to rethink completely.
"Many have filled their places rightly and now they are being asked to take in potentially tens of thousands of people moved back to their centre assessed grades.
"There will be some courses that are just physically full and may have to offer deferrals.”
But there are fears that an enforced gap year could hit poorer students the hardest – as the job market crashes due to the pandemic.
It comes as embattled education secretary Gavin Williamson refused to resign over the A-levels fiasco.
Mr Williamson insisted he was "incredibly sorry" for the debacle, but appeared to shift the blame onto Ofqual – claiming the regulator "didn't deliver the system that we had been reassured and believed that would be in place".
The Department of Education today reiterated that it had "full confidence in Ofqual and its leadership in their role as independent regulator" ahead of GCSE results day tomorrow.
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