University of Surrey applicant’s ‘utter despair’ after A level results algorithm denied her guaranteed place

An A-level student says she is in “utter despair” after the grades she was awarded denied her a guaranteed place at the University of Surrey to pursue a career in veterinary medicine – her dream since the age of three.

With Covid-19 cancelling 2020 exams, for the first time in history students’ results were based on estimates.

But on results day there was disappointment across the country after almost 40% of teachers’ estimates for pupils were reduced by one grade or more.

In a dramatic U-turn on Monday (August 17), the government announced it would be basing all A-level and GCSE results in England on teacher-assessed grades.

However, 18-year-old Eloise Piggott was among those downgraded and says she is still “in the dark” about whether she will be able to get a place at her first choice course.

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Based on her most recent mock exam results, Eloise had been predicted two A*s and an A in her subjects biology, chemistry and maths.

Schools were asked to use their experience to provide the grade they believed a student would have achieved had they sat exams this year by using homework assignments and mock exams as evidence. Following this process, Eloise’s Centre Assessment Grades (CAG) were three As.

It was more than enough to get her a place at the University of Surrey to study veterinary medicine; the course requirements were AAB.

However, on results day the University of Surrey informed her she had not been given a place. Eloise was plunged into limbo and put on the waiting list instead.

Following moderation by a computer algorithm, Eloise had officially been awarded ABB. Missing her first choice requirements by one grade.

The school of veterinary medicine at the University of Surrey
(Image: Surrey Live / Darren Pepe)

“It is complete and utter despair. I was crying my eyes out at the time. It was a sinking feeling because I have worked so hard for so many years.

“I have wanted to do this since I was three years old and it feels like not only have I fallen at the last hurdle but it is as if the government stuck their foot out at the finish line. It was a horrible feeling,” she said.

Eloise, from west London, has always wanted to become a vet and she would have all the qualifications to pursue this career after the five-year course at the Guildford campus.

Prior to the government climbdown, Eloise had asked to appeal her grades. Despite the news that results will now be based on CAG – which in Eloise’s case would mean AAA – there is still confusion over what this actually means for individuals.

Eloise said: “I am delighted that I am going to get the grades that I need, however, I am not sure whether I will get into my first choice university. I am still in the dark.”

She added: “I just feel sorry for everybody going through this same situation. I feel people in non-private schools have been really disadvantaged because they have been told they are not good enough, even though the teachers have predicted them so much higher. One of my friends got Ds and Us down from Bs and a C.”

An extra complication is the competitiveness of the course. Eloise said: “I feel if they [University of Surrey] are oversubscribed based on the grades given then they are going to be less lenient.”

If she is unable to get a place at Surrey, Eloise has been accepted onto the Royal Veterinary College’s gateway foundation course.

It requires a minimum of CCC and would take a year longer to complete. “I am lucky I have that as a back-up option,” Eloise added.

The University of Surrey has been contacted for a comment regarding the appeals process and the government U-turn.

Surrey Live – News