VICE-CHANCELLORS are to draw up a model for an admissions system in which would-be students could apply for university after they receive their exam results. It is likely to involve changes either to the university or school year.
A working party, chaired by Coventry University vice-chancellor Michael Goldstein, should have a blueprint ready by early summer. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals will then decide if it would be practical or acceptable to institutions and students.
"We decided the only way to decide whether a post-qualification admissions system was really on was to devise one," said Dr Goldstein. He said the problem was that the current system was quite robust, having evolved over the years.
The working group will draw heavily on existing practice but will also look at systems in other countries, such as Hong Kong and Ireland, which already run electronic post-qualification admissions systems.
Pressure has mounted for a new system since publication of the Dearing report, which said current practice did not allow students to make the best decisions.
Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said major changes to the university year would be difficult without putting this country out of step with the rest of Europe. Examination boards had also complained it would be impossible to publish A-level results any faster.
"The most likely possibility would be a change in the school year," he said. This could involve a four-term school year, with a shorter autumn term and Easter break and summer exams brought forward. But he said any new system could be overtaken by events. Organisation of admissions was likely to change dramatically in the long term as courses became more flexible and more students applied directly to institutions.