The Russell Group of universities is reassuring students that their chances of getting into top universities will not be adversely affected by the decision to scrap exams, The I Paper reports.

In a letter, the group of 24 institutions said they are prepared to take on higher than usual numbers of students this year to make sure applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds do not miss out for a second year.

The letter, seen by the I, says: “We know that many students in their final years of schooling will be worried about the impact of measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 on their education and future opportunities, including school closures and the cancelling of exams.

“We want to reassure students across all four nations of the UK that whatever the assessment system in 2021, Russell Group universities will be as fair and flexible as possible to ensure they are not disadvantaged in their applications. 

“Last summer we saw a significant increase in the number of students taking up a place at higher-tariff universities, such as those in the Russell Group. This included those from the most underrepresented areas and groups and reflects our members’ determination to ensure applicants were not unfairly affected by the challenging circumstances around those assessments. Our universities will take forward a similar approach this year.” 

The University of Cambridge has also announced that talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds who fail to meet its entry requirements could be given a chance to study at the institution via a foundation year.

Last year elite universities took on significantly more students than usual.  

According to Ucas, the number of students going to these “higher tariff” institutions rose by 12 per cent.