Students have been given an extra two weeks to complete university applications after they were thrown into chaos by the national lockdown.
Ucas’ equal consideration deadline has been moved back to 6pm on January 29 after schools in England were shut until mid-February.
While the date has been delayed, it still means most Year 13 students will need to complete their applications before they go back to school in person.
They also face uncertainty about their future after the government last night confirmed GCSEs and A-levels won’t go ahead this summer.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will give a House of Commons statement at 1pm today spelling out further arrangements for 18-year-olds.
The Department for Education said: “The Government position is that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A-levels.
“Working alongside Ofqual, the department will consult on how to award all pupils a grade that reflects the hard work they’ve done and will continue to do.”
The deadline was also moved back partly because universities have been told to stick to online learning until at least mid-February.
Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said there would be “significant demands” on university staff.
She said: “This decision to extend the deadline is about relieving the pressure not only on students, but also teachers and advisers.
“We know from our data that most students have started their Ucas application and we expect to see the number of applications submitted by 29 January exceed the numbers we have seen in previous years.
“This additional time also allows schools and colleges to support students who do not have readily available access to digital devices to make arrangements to put the finishing touches to their application.
“We strongly advise students not to leave their application to the last minute and if they are ready to submit now to go ahead and do this.
“Whilst students can in many cases apply to courses after the January deadline, applying before 29 January means your application is considered equally against all other students that submit to the deadline and gives students the best possible chance of maximising the numbers of offers they receive.”
The move was supported by Universities UK, with chief executive Alistair Jarvis saying: “I want to reassure applicants that admissions teams are working hard to assess their applications and ensure decisions and offers are made as quickly as possible despite the additional challenges we all face during this national lockdown.”
The national lockdown in England announced on Monday means that all primary and secondary schools and colleges will move to remote learning, except for the children of keyworkers or vulnerable children.
In-person university teaching will only take place for a small number of critical courses, including medicine, dentistry, teacher training, veterinary science and social work.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “We recognise this is a difficult time for young people and it is vital students applying to university in 2021/22 have this extra time to carefully consider their applications and make the best choices for their future.
“We want to level up opportunity for all students, whether that is through university, an apprenticeship or technical education.”