Teachers favour admissions rejig

January 6, 2006

Government proposals to overhaul the university admissions system received a boost this week as a poll showed that eight out of ten teachers believe sixthformers should apply for degree places after receiving A-level results.

A MORI poll commissioned by education charity the Sutton Trust, published this week, showed that 82 per cent of secondary school teachers backed the idea of a university admissions system based on actual A-level results.

They also backed scrapping the use of predicted grades in admissions.

Fourteen per cent of teachers surveyed opposed the idea of changing the system to a post-qualification applications (PQA) method.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "This overwhelming support from teachers should encourage the Government to press ahead with the introduction of PQA, which would be fairer for everyone - particularly able students in schools that traditionally send few students to the top universities."

The poll's findings come as the Government weighs up the results of its own consultation exercise about PQA, which has revealed that vice-chancellors of old and those of new universities are at loggerheads over the plans.

Ministers have argued that using actual rather than predicted grades would be fairer to students - particularly those from working-class backgrounds - and have proposed a two-stage overhaul of admissions.

The first stage, which would be implemented in 2008, would see the clearing system reformed and some form of PQA being introduced in 2010.

The 2010 system would either be full PQA - with all students applying after receiving A-level results - or universities "reserving" up to 15 per cent of places until grades were known.

The Russell Group and 1994 Group universities have told the Government in a joint response to the consultation that the scale of the problem that PQA is meant to resolve is "modest" and that radical reforms are not required.

Instead, they have proposed a five-day "post-qualification adjustment"

period before clearing - to allow applicants who have exceeded expected grades to "trade up" to places at institutions with higher entrance requirements.

But the umbrella body representing post-92 institutions, Campaigning for Mainstream Universities, has backed a move to a full PQA system.

It warned that anything less than using actual grades would simply see a few students move between a few institutions each year.

Universities UK has called for "stability" for applicants and universities in the run-up to the introduction of the new tuition fee and bursary arrangements later this year. It said the current admission system was "generally fair".

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills told The Times Higher that ministers would announce in spring their response to the consultation.

paul.hill@thes.co.uk

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