Ucas ditches PQA plan

Plans for students to apply to university after getting their grades have been abandoned in the face of opposition from schools and universities.

March 28, 2012

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service proposed the radical overhaul of the admissions process in October, but it proved deeply unpopular with the education sector.

Schools were unhappy over plans to cut short the summer term to allow pupils to sit their exams early, while universities said they would struggle to process admissions in a short period over the summer holidays.

Nearly three-quarters of higher education institutions felt the proposals by Ucas were unworkable, while 61 per cent of schools and colleges felt they were unviable, according to a report on the consultation with the sector.

Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of Ucas, who championed plans for post-qualifications applications, said many people wanted the changes, but there were too many systemic problems to overcome.

“Although many respondents to our consultation felt instinctively that a post-results process should be fairer, we heard many well-articulated concerns from schools, colleges and the higher education sector about the practicalities of implementation and the potential disadvantages for significant groups of applicants,” she said.

“Proposals to move to a full post-results admissions process are not being taken forward.

“Different term dates and qualifications’ timetables across the four countries of the UK posed insurmountable obstacles to agreeing a more compressed timescale for the admissions process.”

She added that initiatives by universities to support disadvantaged students could also have been “compromised” by the plans.

“A post-results system might encourage an undesirable focus on simple grade achievements in a sector that prides itself on a more rounded assessment of applicants’ potential,” she said.

However, Ucas is still on course to scrap clearing and replace it with a “fair, managed, online process catering for applicants who want access to the system”.

Under the plans, students will be given time to take stock before applying to university through a managed post-results applications system, ending the last-minute scramble for places on A-level results day.

“The clearing process was originally designed as an informal route to pair unplaced applicants with unfilled places,” said Ms Curnock Cook. “Today it needs to cater for over 50,000 applicants who want access to a process which is fair and transparent.”

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, welcomed the changes, which he said would help “potential students to make more informed, life-changing decisions about their future”.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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