1. ITV Report

Dip in top A-level grades for second year in row

The proportion of students awarded top A-level grades fell for the second year in a row as students across the country found out their results today.

In total, 26.3 percent of entries scored an A or A* this year - a drop of 0.3 percent from 2012.

Over 300,000 students sat A-level exams this year with more pupils than ever before accepting places at university.

ITV News' Debi Edwards reports:

The overall pass rate rose to 98.1 percent, while there was an increase in the number of students taking science and maths but a steep decline in those taking French and German.

Boys outperformed girls in the top grades again, and widened the gender gap, with 7.9% of boys' entries attaining an A* compared with 7.4% of girls.

Eleanor and Sophie celebrate their A-level results at school in Jesmond, Newcastle Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

As national A-level results were published, some of the UK's leading universities were entering clearing to snap up bright students who were still looking for places, or seeking to trade their current offer.

The process of clearing has become even more competitive this year with universities now able to offer unlimited places to students who achieve the highest grades.

Read: A student guide to clearing

Students India Kelly (right) and Moli Geng, hug each other after receiving their A-level results at Chelmsford County High for Girls. Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire/

Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said demand for education had recovered after "a dip last year" following the rise in tuition fees:

The gateway to higher education swings open for many people today based on these results - congratulations to all of them.

Demand for higher education has recovered after a dip last year and universities are keen to accept qualified applicants.

For some, that means going through clearing where there are plenty of high quality vacancies. The Ucas website has all the information you need.

Over 300,000 students sat A-level exams this year. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

However Britain's biggest teachers' union, the NUT, accused the government of harming the prospects of disadvantaged students with their new education reforms.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers also urged the government to rethink plans to return to a system of A-levels that "only benefited an elite group of students".

The NUT accused the government of harming the prospects of disadvantaged students with their new education reforms.

There is also concern over the rising cost of going to university.

A survey carried out by StudentBeans.com for ITV News, found that five per cent of students turn to gambling to cope with the rising cost of university.

Students are going to new lengths to cope with the rising cost of going to university. Credit: PA Wire

Of the 1,110 students surveyed, five per cent revealed they had resorted to using payday loan companies to ease the burden of debt while seven per cent admitted participating in medical trials for extra money.

The Vice President of the National Union of Students assured students that university was "completely worth it" despite the financial cost:

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