Ucas offers post-qualification applications and January term start

Alternative option proposed by UK admissions service would see students applying before receiving results but selecting preferred choice afterwards

November 9, 2020
New Year
Source: iStock

UK students could apply to university once they have received their exam results and would not start their first year until January, under reforms proposed by Ucas.

This is one of two options put forward by the admissions service, with another suggesting that students could apply prior to receiving their results but would not have to choose from their offers until afterwards. Under this idea, the first term would be in the autumn, as is the case currently.

Both options are designed to address concerns over the inaccuracy of predicted grades, which universities rely heavily on in offer-making at the moment. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular are more likely to have their likely performance underestimated, and they are also less likely to apply to selective universities.

Full details of Ucas’ proposals are due to be published in coming weeks, while Universities UK is also expected to produce its own suggested options. Ucas will hold a consultation but does not have the power to impose a model on the sector.

Post-qualification applications have been considered – and rejected – before, but the idea has become increasingly popular in light of the growing use of clearing by university applicants, and concern over the widespread use of unconditional offers by institutions.

The post-qualification offers model would be less disruptive, and Ucas said that having a long selection window prior to the release of exam results “allows time to support students with disabilities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds”.

Clare Marchant, Ucas’ chief executive, said that now was the time for “a serious look at reforming the admissions timetable”.

“There are two options for reform that could work practically and aim to improve fairness for students, as well as eradicate problems for applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds that have become ingrained in the current admissions process,” she said.

“It is absolutely crucial though that we limit any unintended consequences of such major change.”

John Cope, Ucas’ director of strategy, policy and public affairs, said that concern about the accuracy of predicted grades had been heightened by the cancellation of exams earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Access to impartial, high-quality information, advice, and personalised support during the months when students are considering their options is essential to level up opportunity, which is why consideration must be given to reforming admissions, so life-changing decisions are made on the certainty of actual exam results, not predictions,” he said.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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