The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, has made plain the government’s determination to change the higher education application process to a post-qualification admissions (PQA) model.
“We really want to bring post-qualification admissions forward as rapidly as possible,” he said in the House of Commons on 21 June.
“All the evidence, from the Sutton Trust and from so many others, is clear that PQA helps children from the most disadvantaged families more than any others. That is why we will make it happen.”
Plans to consult on the issue were announced in November 2020, with Williamson declaring that “the current admissions system is letting down the brightest pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. By using predicted grades it is limiting the aspirations of students before they know what they can achieve.”
The consultation was launched in January, and laid out two different propositions to reform the admissions system:
- Post-qualification applications (PQA) – where students apply and receive offers after getting their A-level grades in the summer, and begin courses the following January
- Post-qualification offers (PQO) – where students continue to make applications before taking exams, but universities wait until results day to confirm offers
The education secretary’s decision to opt for PQA is likely to disappoint many universities. When the consultation closed in May, they broadly came down in favour of the PQO model.
Implicitly acknowledging that dissatisfaction was likely, Williamson made clear in the Commons that government would not let any dissent stand in the way of their plans:
“We would like to [proceed with PQA] without legislation and in co-operation with the sector, but if we are not able to have that co-operation, we will drive this forward.”