Growing numbers of 18-year-olds with poor A-level grades are being accepted onto university courses, according to Ucas.

The university admissions service says that the proportion of 18-year-olds who have achieved three grade C’s or lower at A-level has risen to 84%, from 79% recorded five years ago.

Ucas also says that those applicants that had the equivalent of three grade D’s had a university application acceptance rate of more than 80%.

One reason for the rise, Ucas says, is that universities are increasingly struggling to recruit 18-year-olds because there has been a fall in student numbers.

The data also highlights a growing trend of students missing their predicted A-level grades which has grown by 3.3% since last year and by 11.5% since five years ago.

Universities need to be ‘mindful’ when accepting applicants

The Ucas chief, Claire Marchant, said that universities need to be ‘mindful’ when accepting applicants who have lower grades.

She added: “We are working with universities and schools to improve the accuracy for predicted grades and exploring different ways for teachers to make predictions.”

The new guide offering good practice is set to be published next year.

The Ucas figures come after the Office for Students, the new universities’ regulator, published its ambitious targets for challenging universities to eliminate the gaps in student access and success over the next 20 years.

The Office for Students says that the targets will eliminate the gaps in entry rates for the most selective universities between the least and most represented groups and also help with the dropout rates.

Boost degree outcomes between black and white students

There are also aims to boost degree outcomes between black and white students and also for disabled and non-disabled students.

The education secretary, Damian Hinds, said specific action is needed for boosting access to universities for white working class youngsters and to ensure that students are more likely to complete their course.

He added: “I see no reason why background or race should be a factor in whether a student can access and then benefit from higher education opportunities. We must all share an endeavour to tear down these barriers.”

The Russell Group of universities’ head of policy, Sarah Stevens, said that around £1,100 is being spent every year on student programmes that help to widen participation in Russell group institutions.

She added: “We strongly urge government through its current review of university funding to protect this level of investment.”