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For better or worse, our universities are hierarchical. It’s why A-levels matter | Nick Hillman

No other European country has such a stratified sector, and this explains the rage at exams fiasco

The job of university admissions offices has been likened to landing a jumbo jet on a postage stamp. In their last year of school, pupils apply for up to five courses through Ucas. Universities then decide how many deserve the offer of a place, based on how many offers are usually accepted and then matched on results day.

It is a difficult task even in a normal year, yet the costs of getting it wrong are huge. If an institution under-recruits, it will have spare places, empty beds and financial problems. If it over-recruits, it will have overcrowded seminars, a worse staff-student ratio and discontented students, hitting league table positions.

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