Post-qualification admissions reforms in England scrapped

Plans for students to apply to university after receiving their results have again been abandoned

二月 24, 2022
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Plans to make students apply to English universities after receiving their exam results have been abandoned, the Department for Education has confirmed.

In a statement published on 24 February, the department said that a four-month consultation held last year found there was “some support for post-qualifications admissions, but this is not strong enough to indicate that this is the right time for such a major upheaval”.

Responses to the consultation also showed that “this reform would be a significant undertaking for both the higher education and the school and college systems”, it continued, adding: “Many respondents point out a need for the sector to focus on educational recovery and exam recovery as a priority, rather than wholesale system reform.”

The move – predicted by Times Higher Education earlier this month – was condemned as a “grave error” by Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, which has long campaigned for the reforms.

“Post-qualification admissions are essential for ensuring students get into the right university according to their actual achievement not predictions of potential, which are often inaccurate,” said Dr Grady.

“Alongside the regressive changes to students’ ability to access finance this is another nail in the coffin for widening access to universities – and a clear indication this government has little concern for the aspirations of those from working-class communities.”

The push to a system in which students choose their university place after they get their grades in A levels and equivalent qualifications was championed by Gavin Williamson in his time as education secretary but it was dropped as a priority after Mr Williamson was sacked in September 2021. Previous efforts to move to PQA – which have included reviews in 2004 and 2011 – have also hit the rocks.

The move has always faced considerable opposition from universities, which have warned that the reform would not give institutions enough time to support students through the applications process – which would hit those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds hardest.

Universities UK said in its response to the PQA consultation that “a form of” of post-qualification offers – with students applying prior to their exams – had the potential to increase fairness for students while still ensuring universities can continue to deliver an efficient and effective admissions process” but would nonetheless “require some fundamental adjustments to truly improve fairness and transparency for students.”

However, a straight PQA system was “unworkable”, the vice-chancellors’ group warned.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said that it was already committed to a “well-developed ongoing programme of reform that has student choice, transparency, and fair access at its heart”.

“Being able to support all students, help them make well-informed decisions about their futures and give them more flexibility as they apply was never dependent on post-qualification admissions,” she said, adding that its Clearing Plus system used by more than 15,000 UK students meant there was “already…an element of post-qualification admissions in the system that is working well”.



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