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UCAS to scrap personal statement requirement for student applicants

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has said that students will no longer be required to write a personal statement when applying for higher education.

In a report titled Future of Undergraduate Admissions, which was published on 12 January, UCAS said that students would now answer a series of questions about their reasons for choosing a particular course.

Once the questions have been finalised, they will replace the statement from 2024-25.

It detailed concerns that support for students writing personal statements was “not universal”, and that it favoured privileged students. As a result, UCAS wrote that the personal statement has been criticised “as a mechanism to ‘widen the gap’” between students.

Analysis by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) in November last year found that writing a statement is an “unnecessary burden” on disadvantaged students, and it said that the 4,000-character essay was a factor “contributing to inequalities in higher education access”.

The personal statement will be replaced by a series of questions covering six key areas: motivation for the course, preparedness for the course, preparation through other experiences, extenuating circumstances, preparedness for study, and preferred learning style.

UCAS said that it hopes that the questions will “bring focus and clarity for students” and “reduce the need for support”.

The report found that 83% of students find the process of writing a personal statement to be stressful, and 79% believe that the statement is difficult to complete without institutional or external support.

UCAS consulted with 1,200 students, more than 170 teachers and advisers, 100 universities and colleges, and government representatives when creating the report.

In February 2022, UCAS announced that it was considering making changes to the application process.

Michelle Donelan, the Universities Minister at the time, said: “I have always felt that personal statements in their current form favour the most advantaged students.

“So I’m pleased that UCAS have confirmed that reform of the personal statement is in their plans so that personal statements work to the benefit of all students.”

The report also revealed that academic references are to be replaced with three structured questions for referees to answer, in order to make it easier to compare applicants against each other.


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