Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has backed a review of university admissions processes that support the Office for Students (OfS)’s consideration of a post-qualification applications (PQA) system.
The PQA system is a university admissions process where students apply to university after receiving their A-level results.
Currently, the process involves students applying to university months before they sit their exams, universities will then make offers to students by using grades predicted by schools.
Many students are already using a post-qualifications system for courses still on offer after exam results, known as clearing.
Williamson said: “I recognise that we need to review if the current system is working as well as it can, so I am glad the OfS is looking at whether it would be in students’ interests to apply for their university place after they have their A-level results.
I would endorse the proposal to use the review to consider the pros and cons of potential models of post-qualification application (PQA). While this has been considered before, the context in which the sector is operating has changed
– Gavin Williamson
“I’m also concerned about how some universities are recruiting students, in particular a worrying rise in unconditional offers. So I welcome the OfS’ focus on whether ‘conditional unconditional’ offers are harming students’ interests and whether they breach their consumer rights.”
A number of teachers blame unconditional offers for students’ downfall in their overall A-level grades, although others are also against a post-qualifications system which would entail moving exams earlier in the year.
Williamson told the OfS: “I would endorse the proposal to use the review to consider the pros and cons of potential models of post-qualification application (PQA). While this has been considered before, the context in which the sector is operating has changed.”
He went on to say that the review should “further improve and develop the admissions system so that it remains fair and transparent for students both now and in the future, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds”.
Studies have shown that approximately 1,000 high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds apply with under-predicted grades each year and have to reapply the following year when they achieve better grades than expected.
The letter sent to universities regulator, the Office for Students comes after Universities UK (UUK) launched a “Fair admissions review”. This review considered the introduction of post-qualification applications in July this year.