THE UK Government has lifted the cap on the number of places on specialist university courses following the U-turn on A-level grades.

Universities are to be given extra funding to increase capacity on courses after institutions warned they had limited space for students who saw their results increase after Downing Street u-turned on their marking methods.

Extra spaces are anticipated to open up on courses such as medicine, veterinary, dentistry and teaching.

The move comes after vice-chancellors and doctors called for the cap on student numbers in medical schools to be removed amid the grading chaos.

The U-turn on Monday – which meant A-level results would be based on teachers’ estimated grades – came too late for many students who had already made choices about universities based on the grades they were initially awarded.

Leading universities have warned students who have higher grades may still be asked to defer their place if there is no longer space on their preferred course.

The University of Durham is offering a bursary and “guaranteed college accommodation” to students who volunteer to defer a year due to capacity issues caused by the U-turn.

Additional teaching grant funding will now be provided to increase capacity in medical, nursing and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Stem) subjects.

The Government’s Higher Education Taskforce – made up of university sector leaders – agreed on Wednesday to honour all offers across courses to students who meet their conditions this coming year wherever possible, or if maximum capacity is reached to offer an alternative course or a deferred place.

It comes after Ucas revealed around 15,000 students who were rejected by their first-choice university will now meet the offer conditions after the grading U-turn.

Figures from Ofqual, the qualifications body in England, show the proportion of A-level entries in England which received top grades increased to a record high following the changes to the system this week.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: “This has been an incredibly difficult time for students and I want to reassure them that every effort is being made to make sure all those who planned to can move on to higher education.

“I am delighted that the Government and the higher education sector have agreed that all students who achieved the required grades will be offered a place at their first choice university.

“I want universities to do all they can to take them on this year or offer alternative courses or deferred places where required.”

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group of universities, called the decision a “very positive step”, adding it will help institutions increase capacity and help more students attend higher education.

He said: “Russell Group universities are working with Government and will do everything they can to accommodate as many students as possible on their preferred courses this year, and will continue to do so wherever this is practically possible.

“Where this isn’t possible, our universities will look to offer deferred places or explore places on alternative courses where the student meets the entry requirements.”

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “The policy U-turn on A-levels has created significant challenges for universities caused by late movement of students between institutions.

“The welcome additional medicine and dentistry places and confirmation of the additional teaching grant for high-costs subjects will help to support capacity.

“Government now needs to urgently confirm funding both to ensure the financial stability of institutions suffering from a loss of students and to offer further support to maintain and build capacity where needed.”