How do things stand now?
Essentially that proposals to move to a full post-results admissions (PQA) system, which had provoked strong opinions, will not now be introduced but a number of other refinements to the HE admissions system will be introduced, in many cases from the 2014 year of entry
A review of the current admissions arrangements had been initiated by UCAS last autumn. 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the inception of an admissions system managed by what was known in the early years as UCCA. Although there have been a number of changes over the years partly to respond to the mass expansion of higher education and partly to reflect the emergence of new technology, UCAS felt that it was an appropriate moment to consult on whether further changes were needed. A central proposal was whether it was feasible to shift to a system of applying once exam results were known rather than relying on predicted grades which some had suggested were an unreliable guide. This had been considered nearly a decade before but the problem has always been the dislocation that this might cause to exam timetables, teaching time, results announcements, admissions management and so on; such problems have clearly surfaced again this time
So what is UCAS recommending?
Much of its attention will now shift towards improving the generally fairly frenetic rush associated with the Clearing process in the summer, transforming this into “a fair, managed, online process.” It will also instigate a number of other refinements, grouped as follows:
- Proposals that received strong support and are recommended for implementation. These include: the introduction of a web portal to provide users with better information; better guidance for completing references; an upload facility so that applicants will be able to scan things like exam certificates required during the application process and greater opportunities for HEIs to be able to offer feedback to applicants
- Proposals that have been amended following feedback and are now recommended for implementation. These include: allowing parts of the personal statement to be more tailored to specific choices and providing pop-ups and wizards to help applicants as they plough through the application process
- Proposals that received support but need further refinement before being introduced. These include: greater clarity around deadlines and key decision-making points; a defined offer ‘window’ for Apply and improving flexibility around Extra
The hope is that such changes will improve arrangements with minimum disruption but as the consultation revealed, a number of challenges remain some of which are long-standing, such as the nature of predicted grades, the need for clear information and guidance and, in a week in which further data on this was released, how best to support widening participation
Head of Policy (UK and International)
Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning