Gap year used to map career

August 16, 1996

THES reporters on the annual race of students for places which gets under way this week with hurdles for both sides.

Last year, more than 32,000 of the 205,000 applicants with enough A- level and GNVQ marks to enter higher education decided to leave it for at least a year. Nearly one in seven of these had been offered an unconditional place but turned it down.

A survey published this week by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service found financial and personal reasons, failure to achieve a place in a chosen subject or institution and a desire to travel all influenced the decision to decline an offer.

But the principal reason was the applicants' need to rethink their career paths.

The findings will add to the debate on the future of the admissions system, currently under review by Sir Ron Dearing, UCAS and the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals.

Consultation is taking place on a CVCP proposal for a dual system allowing applicants to apply either on predicted grades or after their results in a process similar to an extending clearing period.

Tony Higgins, UCAS chief executive, said: "The findings could confirm claims over the past few years that students should be applying after they receive their results, when they are that little bit older and know what they want."

Of those applicants surveyed who had not been offered a place, three-quarters intended to try again. Most of these had chosen to take a year out to earn money to finance future study.

A similar proportion of applicants who had turned down offers also intended to reapply.

"It is not that they are disillusioned with higher education or feel there are no jobs for graduates - just that they want to take time to review their options," said Mr Higgins.

"We suspected that it would be financial pressures that prevented them going on to college but there is a significant element of young people wanting to rethink."

The UCAS study questioned 32,602 applicants for 1995 entry who were under 21 and held at least two A-level passes or a GNVQ.

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