Image: Flickr / City of Stoke On Trent Sixth Form

Department of Education considering moving university applications to after exam results

The Department for Education is planning a potential reform of the university admissions system in England.

Rather than students applying to university and receiving offers before they take their A-Level examinations, the proposals would see students submit their applications after they receive their exam results. 

The government believes that the new process would particularly benefit the most disadvantaged students, including those from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds

According to the Sutton Trust, a charity focused on social mobility and educational disadvantage, the most disadvantaged students tend to receive lower predicted grades from their teachers than what they actually achieve in exams. 

This makes predicted grades a poor indicator for actual success and limits the aspirations of such students who may have otherwise applied to higher-tier universities with high-grade requirements. 

This is especially concerning for this year’s A-Level finalists who are unable to undertake examinations, due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning their offers are based on the predicted grades teachers decide for every student.

The current system is also particularly troublesome for students who miss the required grades conditions for entry to their selected university, and so face a scramble in clearing to find a place in an alternative course and/or university. 

The proposed system would do away with such difficulties, as students will be clear in the knowledge of their grades when applying. It would also remove the need for conditional and unconditional offers. 

Universities UK (UUK), the industry lobby representing universities, is also holding its own consultation on the admissions system.

The Department of Education refused to provide a comment, stating that they do not discuss “speculation”.

The proposal is part of the government’s wider plans to reform higher education, including making courses more cost-effective and better adapted to meet the needs of the UK labour market. 


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