Thousands of students have just received their A-level results and discovered whether they are off to university.

More than 26 per cent of entries were awarded an A* or A; an increase of 0.5 percentage points from last year.

But with so many students getting good grades and going to university, is the whole experience worth the same as it once was?

FactCheck looked into the details.

Are A-levels worth less?

For years, there have been concerns about grade inflation. With more people getting good grades, are A-levels enough to get into a good university?

The system used to be very different.

Between 1963 and 1987, the proportion of pupils who could get each grade was fixed. Guidelines said that only the top 10 per cent should get an A, no matter what mark they got.

This was potentially helpful to universities, as it made it easier to pick out the highest-performing students.

But it also meant grades could be highly variable between different years. The spread of grades would be about the same each year, even if one cohort of students was actually far better than the other.

And if lots of pupils had performed to a similar level, the bands between grades could be extremely small. In one exam in 1982, there was a difference of just eight marks between a D and a B.

So while it may be possible to compare the market value of A-levels, the actual results themselves are completely incomparable.

The current system has seen a significant rise in the proportion of top grades being awarded, as this graph from an academic study shows.

But does this mean that A-levels are worth less?

In 2010, the government introduced a new A* grade for A-levels. The aim was to ensure that top grades don’t become meaningless, and allow universities and employers to differentiate between candidates more easily.

Out of the A-level results released today, 8.3 per cent were graded A*. This figure has remained very stable since it was introduced (in 2010, it was 8.1 per cent).

This figure is also very close to the percentage of entries that were graded A in previous decades. For instance, 8.9 per cent of exams achieved an A in 1982.

So – for the time being, at least – A* seems to have become the new A, in terms of its proportional value.

But there’s another side to this as well: the number of people applying to university has gone up dramatically. This graph shows the shift that has happened even just over the last ten years.

More than 718,000 people applied to university last year, compared with 506,000 in 2006. The gap between applications and acceptances has risen by 59 per cent.

Provisional figures for 2017 show a drop in applications, but the broader trend over the years shows a big increase.

As more students apply, universities can be pickier about who they chose. And if we compare this to the stable proportions of A* grades that are being awarded, it could suggest that they are actually becoming more valuable.

Of course, the value that universities chose to attribute to A-level grades is another question, and will vary between institutions. But on the face of it, it seems top A-level grades are not worth less now than they once were.

How much have tuition fees increased by?

Twenty years ago, there were no tuition fees.

They were first introduced by Tony Blair in 1997, and came into force the following year. But the fees were waived for the poorest students.

By 2012, the government had raised the cost to £9,000, with further increases since.

Student loans cover the cost, but repayments begin once graduate earnings meet a set lower limit.

Do today’s students get less maintenance support?

The overall amount of maintenance support has gone up in real terms.

Student who started in 2014/15 get around £5,000, on average, compared to about £2,500 in 1991/2.

But there’s a catch. Back then, the vast majority of maintenance support was given in the form of grants, which did not have to be repaid.

Over time, grants made up less and less of the total figures, while loans became more dominant. So although students were getting more maintenance support in the short-term, it was saddling them with debt.

This graph shows the trend up until 2014/15.

However, since then, the government has scrapped maintenance grants altogether and replaced them with loans.

The change came into force in 2016, with students taking out loans of up to £8,200, which they have to repay after university.

Have graduate wages gone down?

Since the financial crash, graduate wages have slumped. However, this followed a peak in the 2000s.

When we compare current graduate wages to 20 years ago, there is not a great deal of difference.

The graph below, from the IFS, shows how median hourly wages have changed over the years among people aged 25-29.

(This means most of the people represented in the figures for each year actually graduated a few years earlier, so this does not give a fully up-to-date picture).

Does a degree boost wages as much as it used to?

There has not been a significant change in the so-called “wage premium” that university gives you.

These IFS figures show the ratio of the median wage of university graduates, to the median wage of non-graduates, by age cohort.

In their early twenties, the earnings of graduates from more recent cohorts is slightly closer to those of non-graduates – but the gap has remained broadly the same.

In other words, a degree boosts your salary by around the same proportions as before.

However, it’s important to note that this graph does not include people who have graduated in the last few years. The most recent cohort included are now in their late twenties, so it is possible that the wage premium has dropped further since this group graduated.