VICE CHANCELLORS have agreed to introduce a post-A levels admissions system if administrative problems can be solved.
Representatives from universities, colleges, schools and the admissions service will meet in the next few weeks to start hammering out details.
Schools and colleges, which have to try to predict their students' A level and GNVQ grades under the present system, have been urging a change to post-qualification admissions for some time.
A committee set up to consider the idea was put on hold last year while awaiting Sir Ron Dearing's report on higher education. Now that Sir Ron has given his backing vice chancellors are anxious to start it up again.
Brian Smith, vice chancellor of the University of Wales College of Cardiff and chair of the new committee, said: "We are hoping to see if we can produce a system that can be practical within the enormous constraints of the university timetable. We think it can, with some fairly modest changes."
He said they would be looking for inspiration to admissions systems in Ireland and Hong Kong.
John Tredwell, principal of Worcester Sixth Form College, welcomed the news. "Schools feel the choice is being made too early," he said. "We are criticised about our predicted grades and there is temendous pressure for people to apply in October and November when they have only just started their second year."
He suggested prospective students who needed to be interviewed, such as medical students or teachers, could go to regional assessment centres.
A report two years ago by Sir Frederick Crawford, then vice chancellor of Aston University, did not support a change in the present admission system. But the issue has refused to die, especially since developments in compiling electronic data have made it more practicable.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is already piloting electronic systems.