A-level results: Northern Ireland students perform strongly

About 32,000 students in Northern Ireland have received their A-level exam results

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Northern Ireland students outperformed their counterparts in England and Wales in A-level A* and A grades, but were not so strong in A* results alone.

In the full A-level, 29.9% of students scored A or A*, whereas across the nations 26% got these grades.

Increased interest in film or media studies was linked by the Joint Council for Qualifications to the filming of the Game of Thrones in NI.

However, political studies A-level entries were down.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQCIC) said there was a slight increase in top A* grade, rising from last year's 7.2% to 7.3% this year.

The figure across England, Wales and Northern Ireland was 8.2%.

About 32,000 students in Northern Ireland have received their A-level exam results.

The vast majority of candidates were able to find out their grades online.

About 24,000 of them have been able to log on to the internet from 07:00 BST, wherever they are in the world, to check their performance.

A spokeswoman for the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) said almost 13,000 students had used its online results service by noon on Thursday.

In mathematics, 45.3% of entries were awarded grades A*-A.

Top choice

The most popular subjects continued to be biology, mathematics, history, English and religious studies.

The most popular subject for boys was mathematics, with 1,815 entries, while the top choice for girls was biology, with 1,871 entries.

Increased interest in the creative industries was reflected in a greater number of entries in subjects such as film and media studies (up 5.7%), and art and design (up 3.5%).

Entry figures at AS level jumped to 45,751, an increase of 5.2% on 2013 figures, the highest entry for AS in Northern Ireland since its introduction in 2001.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said the results were the "culmination of many years of hard work by pupils, with support from their teachers and families".

""However, not all pupils will get the results they were hoping for today and I urge those young people not to worry.

"Help and advice is available to you and I encourage you to speak to your teachers, careers advisers and parents to discuss your future career or study path," he said.

'Difficult'

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry said: "The importance of making an informed decision following exam results is imperative to effective career planning.

"Taking time now to explore options will pay dividends in the future."

Rebecca Hall, president of the NUS-USI (National Union of Students - Union of Students in Ireland), said: "Many students in higher education find it difficult to make ends meet and the cost of living has increased in recent times.

"I would take this opportunity to call for the employment and learning minister to examine increasing student grants and maintenance loans in line with inflation annually, within the review being conducting on higher education here."

Northern Ireland's two universities want to recruit higher-paying students from outside the region, but they said local applicants would not be disadvantaged.

Tuition fees

Both Queen's University, Belfast, (QUB) and the University of Ulster (UU) have been offering perks, such as free flights and en-suite accommodation, to prospective entrants with addresses outside Northern Ireland.

Students from Great Britain who opt to study in Northern Ireland currently have to pay up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees to their chosen university.

In contrast, applicants from Northern Ireland who are offered a place at either QUB or UU will pay a maximum tuition fee of £3,685 during the academic year 2014/15.

Anthony McGrath Anthony McGrath from QUB said the university was trying to reduce barriers for GB students who face higher fees to study in Northern Ireland

A deal that secured reduced fees for local students was reached in 2011 following negotiations between Northern Ireland Executive ministers and Stormont's Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).

However, if the Northern Ireland students apply for a course based elsewhere in the UK, they could face the full £9,000 annual fee, depending on their choice of course and college.

Anthony McGrath from QUB said students from Great Britain who paid £9,000 for a place at the Belfast university would have "a number of different incentives to come here".

"We've tried to package things together for GB students to try to attract students, try to make things as easy as possible.

"We find that there are a number of barriers in the way for students to come to Belfast, to come to Northern Ireland, and we've tried to reduce those barriers."

Mr McGrath, however, said he believed Northern Ireland students were "getting a great deal at the moment, because they're paying much less than GB students" to study at Queen's.

Both QUB and UU have assured students from Northern Ireland that they would not lose out on university places as a result of their drive to attract higher-paying applicants.

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