University admissions could see major changes

No more predicted grades?: Changes to university admissions in England have been suggested. Source: City of Stoke on Trent Sixth Form (via Flickr)

By Omo Ifabua

After an investigation by the UK’s higher education watchdog, students could be seeing the university application system in England completely revolutionised. The method currently operates using predicted grades, personal statements and references, however the alternative system, outlined by the Office for Students, would no longer use any of these traditional measures.

Calls to change the application process came after the watchdog’s three-month review which concluded that the current system was not entirely fair. Their research discovered that 75% of the time, students do not reach the predicted grades issued by their schools. In addition to this, the review suggested there is a lack of transparency between universities and students regarding the grades needed for admittance, which are often much lower than those advertised during the application stage. As a result, the Office for Students have drafted three ‘fairer’ potential reforms of the English system:

Firstly, universities would not make offers to students until A-level results day when candidates have received their grades. Applications could still be made in advance, but would not be accepted until the required grades were achieved.

Secondly, students would not make university applications until they had received their results. University visits could still be made and students may register their interest, however, formal applications would only be made after receiving their exam results.

Thirdly, retain most elements of the current system but more greatly consider the disadvantages faced by certain pupils. This system would also reconsider using personal statements and enforce greater transparency from universities over required entry grades.

A different approach to reforming the English university system has also been suggested by the Higher Education Policy Institute, which posed scrapping tuition fees for the first year of study for students whose parents have not attended university. This would aim to create more open access to university by removing financial barriers for disadvantaged pupils, with the government paying the fee instead.

The watchdog will publish its final findings once the full admissions review has concluded in May 2020, but ultimately, universities are independent bodies and will have the final say on what changes are imposed.

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