Ucas calls for admissions system for part-timers

March 19, 2009

A single university admissions process for part-time students is needed to boost the numbers in the UK workforce taking on higher education qualifications, the sector's admissions body has argued.

In its submission to an MPs' inquiry on students and universities, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service - which handles full-time undergraduate admissions - calls for a sector-wide part-time applications system to help universities meet the Government's adult skills targets.

"Achieving the Leitch targets of 40 per cent of all adults in England gaining a Level 4 qualification by 2020 will depend on improving the take-up of part-time as well as full-time learning," the submission to the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee says.

However, at the moment, there is no shared system for part-time admissions, nor a single source of reliable information for part-time undergraduate courses, the document explains.

Research carried out by Ucas suggests that would-be part-time learners find it difficult to locate the information they need.

The paper also highlights the "minimal" number of people who have taken advanced apprenticeships and then progressed to higher education.

Some 228 people who chose this route applied through Ucas for full-time places in 2008.

Part of the reason for this may be "a lack of understanding among admissions staff of the value of vocational qualifications and a ... reluctance to make offers," the paper suggests.

The Ucas document also raises concerns about the use of admissions tests by universities. Numbers applying to courses with admissions tests rose from 46,213 to 52,294 between 2007 and 2008.

In 2008, 21,939 people applied to courses requiring the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), and 7,593 to courses requiring the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT).

Some 16 per cent of higher education institutions use admissions tests and they affect 0.7 per cent of courses, but "there may be widening-participation issues in relation to use of these tests in terms of cost and accessibility", the Ucas document claims.

"Those institutions that choose to support admissions processes through use of admissions tests need to be confident that (they) provide critical information that is substantively different from that derived from current 14-19 qualifications," it adds.

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com.

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