A guide to post-qualification anxieties (1 of 2)

February 17, 2011

In her leader "Drop the guessing games" (10 February), Ann Mroz agrees that the logic of the post-qualifications applications system seems "unchallengeable".

I did my undergraduate degree in Hong Kong and, at the time, the University of Hong Kong used a PQA system. The anxiety is huge for students with less-favourable results - which would be the case for many of the students a UK PQA system would aim to help.

At that time, the University of Hong Kong used a fixed quota system, so students with less-favourable results had to guess which subject would attract the fewest applicants who had better qualifications than them. This gamble completely distracted students from choosing which subject they were interested in. They also had to make a decision within a very short space of time, unlike the current system in the UK.

If the UK adopts a PQA system, students will also have to figure out which universities will be more popular in any given year, making the competition for places keener.

Admission tutors will find it more difficult to apply a "fair" admissions policy as they will be left with very little time for interviews.

Also, under the current system the number of offers can be controlled and remedial actions taken if the number of suitable applicants turns out to be too few or too many. If a PQA system is used, it will be next to impossible to plan financially as it will be extremely difficult to predict whether a university or degree programme will be popular in any given year.

Andrew H.C. Chan, Professor in computational engineering Deputy admission officer, School of Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham.

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