Ucas proposes post-qualification admissions system

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said the plan is “not without significant challenge”

Students would receive their university offers after receiving their end-of-year results – eliminating the role of predicted grades in offer-making – under new proposals set out by Ucas, the university admissions service.

In a report published today, Ucas has proposed a ‘post-qualification offer’ approach, which would see students receive their offers in the summer after their grades are released. Applicants would submit their Ucas forms during the winter and spring, as they do presently, under the plans.

Ucas announced it was considering two “radical new options” for admissions reform in November last year. The two options, known as post-qualification offers and post-qualification applications, would mark a radical departure from the current system.

The PQA option not favoured by Ucas would see students submit applications after results day, which would entail extensive changes to school and university timetables. The review criticised this model “as this could lead to poorer quality decisions by students, and increase dropout rates”. It would also run the risk of making university offers “purely about exam results, and not individuals,” the Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said.

Any new model would require schools and colleges to be available for longer during the summer to support students as they receive offers. The vast majority of students rely on this support
– Clare Marchant, Ucas

Education secretary Gavin Williamson commissioned a government review of admissions last year, declaring that the current system “breeds low aspiration and unfairness“. The government’s review is due to be published in a few weeks.

Ucas said its plans require further consideration with the HE sector. It would present challenges to the application processes of international students and need to work alongside the education systems across the four nations of the UK – which all have different examinations and results days. Ucas says it is essential students receive support from schools and colleges during the post-results offer-making period, which would fall amid the summer holidays.

The proposals follow over two years of consultation with nearly 15,000 applicants. According to a Ucas survey, 70% of students surveyed want a system that allows them to submit applications before exams.

Ms Marchant said: “Such an approach is not without significant challenge. Any new model would require schools and colleges to be available for longer during the summer to support students as they receive offers. The vast majority of students rely on this support, with 85% saying in our survey that they consulted with a teacher or adviser when making their university decisions, and two-thirds doing this on a regular basis.

“Equally, consideration would need to be given on how international students apply to UK universities, as a system where offers are made later in the year poses significant risks to the UK’s competitive position in the global student recruitment market.

“Through our engagement stakeholders also told us the importance of maintaining and enhancing the options available to students. This includes ensuring that all UK destinations remain available, but also that greater information is given about other routes, such as apprenticeships, alongside undergraduate options.”

Read more: Post-qualification admissions not the answer, says Birmingham University VC

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