Does an early start work?

August 22, 2003

As clearing gets under way, we look at post-qualification admission systems abroad.

How do other countries deal with matching applicants to places?

In the UK, universities are embroiled in the process of allocating more than 40,000 students to broadly similar numbers of vacant places. This is because they failed to get on their chosen course because they did not make their predicted A-level grades.

To much of the rest of the world, it seems crazy to offer places on the basis of predictions that may not be fulfilled only then to scramble to match students who want a place to universities that need undergraduates.

Instead, post-qualification admission is the norm in many countries with large student populations - and in most cases it seems to work. The critical area of uncertainty is removed. Students are better equipped to match their qualifications with study and career aspirations.

But is it more reliable than the UK system? Experiences elsewhere suggest it may not be.

Variables such as the numbers of students and places have to be taken into account, as does the balance between school and university curriculum, and universities' expectations about would-be students' knowledge.

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