A-level results 2023: What’s driving the uptake in computing degrees?

A-level results 2023: Young woman using a digital tablet in a classroom
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With A-level results pouring in across the country, analysis shows that acceptance rates for computing degrees have reached their highest levels since 2019. 

Across the UK, 26,430 students were accepted into computing-related degrees such as computer science, software engineering, artificial intelligence, and information technology. 

This marks an increase of more than 3,000 compared to 2019 levels.

A-level computing also witnessed a sharp rise this year, up 16.7% from 15,693 entries in 2022 to 18,306 in 2023, suggesting that computing subjects are becoming a more appealing study area as students and school leavers consider careers in tech. 

Increasing the uptake of computing subjects in schools has become a key priority for both the UK government and devolved administrations in recent years.

In Scotland, for example, the devolved government pledged more than £1.3 million in funding last year to support computing science, enabling schools from primary level upward to purchase additional equipment, devices, and teaching materials. 

This move followed recommendations from a sweeping review into the state of the regional tech sector, which found that more investment was needed to bolster the number of students engaging in STEM subjects. 


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More broadly, the UK government has been vocal on improving attainment levels in STEM subjects as part of its Digital Strategy

A key focus of the strategy centers around fostering closer ties between schools, universities, and businesses to improve digital skills and STEM education. 

This all comes against a backdrop of growing concern over the country’s growing digital skills gap. The UK tech sector has been contending with a marked gap in recent years which industry figures have warned has the potential to impede long-term growth.

A study from Hays in January this year found that 95% of employers seeking tech talent encountered skills shortages across 2022. The survey of UK employers noted that 94% faced a “lack of talent” in their hiring searches in 2022, which marked an increase from 89% in the year prior. 

The consistent growth of computing degree acceptance rates and an increase in the volume of students engaging with computing subjects suggests the country is moving in the right direction. However, statistics show there is still work to be done, especially with regard to gender diversity

A-level results: Bridging the gender divide

This year’s figures revealed that more female students are taking computing courses at A-level, with a 17.6% increase recorded compared to last year. This increase follows consistent growth since 2019, with analysis showing that the number of female students has risen by 87.6%. 

Despite this, however, female students still remain vastly outnumbered in these subjects, accounting for just 15.1% of the total number of computing students. 

Agata Nowakowska, area vice president for EMEA at Skillsoft, said this growth is promising but raised concerns that not enough is being done to encourage young women and girls to engage with computing subjects. 

Nowakowska’s comments follow news last month that the number of female students taking computing at degree level dipped. The decrease suggests that many female students aren’t “taking the leap” and continuing to engage with computing at higher education levels. 

“This year’s 17.6% increase in the number of girls taking computing is hopefully a good indication that things are moving in the right direction. However, these A-Level results must not be a signal to become complacent, particularly following last month’s fall in the number of girls taking Computing at degree level,” she said. 

“STEM subjects remain very male-dominated, putting off over a quarter of female students. Old-fashioned biases can still creep in and influence young girls’ decisions, not just in selecting A-Level subjects but when pursuing higher education or looking to join the career ladder. We still have a long way to go before those are fully behind us, and need to make sure STEM is a place girls feel welcome and inspired.”

What’s driving the uptake in computing degrees?

Broader awareness of computing subjects and tech-related career prospects could be driving the uptake among students at both A-level and beyond. 

Recent analysis from the British Computer Society (BCS) found that interest in emerging technologies is also playing a role in driving uptake. The organization found that interest in computing degrees has been growing at a faster rate than other university courses, which is in part due to the recent excitement surrounding generative AI.

92,980 students applied for places on computing degrees in the UK this year, marking a 9.6% rise compared to the previous year. AI and data analytics were specifically highlighted as key elements in attracting prospective students, with many considering careers in these emerging fields. 

“Young people are seeing and using real-world generative AI tools, like Dall-E for pictures, so it’s no surprise that career aspirations and education and skills choices lead them this way,” a spokesperson for BCS told ITPro in February. 

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

For news pitches, you can contact Ross at ross.kelly@futurenet.com, or on Twitter and LinkedIn.