Admit the problems

October 8, 2015

Zahir Irani exposes the multitude of problems with our admissions service (“A changing game: the need to rethink student admissions”, 2 October). The removal of student number controls is sending waves through the sector and universities are being forced to rethink their entire recruitment strategies.

However, there are inherent problems that have been in need of a complete overhaul for years now. In 2012, only half of final A-level results matched estimates made by teachers earlier in the academic year, with almost one in 10 forecasts out by more than one grade.

Irani complains that students are being given unconditional offers based on these inaccurate predicted grades and extracurricular activities, which also facilitate discrimination in the system. Private schools have higher accuracy (although still not perfect) because they predict more As, so these students are more advantaged over others.

In a report by the University and College Union, seven in 10 staff involved with university applications backed a system in which students apply to university after they receive their results.

We believe that an overhaul of the system would also address the problem of inaccurate predicted grades and abolish the need for unconditional offers.

Allowing students to apply after they get their results would allow them to accurately make the most of their potential. It would also remove the pressure on schools to overestimate students’ marks in an effort to ensure that they do not miss out on the top grades that they require. However inconvenient this might be for some, it is time for a system that provides fairer access to our universities.

Sally Hunt
General secretary
University and College Union


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