23 April 2021
by Andrea Gaini

UCAS sets out ways to enhance how students make their university choices

UCAS has published a potential new model for university admissions that would see students receive their offers based on their actual achievement, rather than an estimate, and eliminate pre-qualification unconditional offers, which have been seen to impact on student attainment.

students working
© Jeswin Thomas/Unsplash

The report, Reimagining UK admissions, proposes a ‘post-qualification offer’ approach – students would complete their UCAS application as they do now, but universities would only make them offers once they have received their examination results. Students would also have the chance to explore new opportunities with their results in hand.

However, UCAS warns the proposal needs to be considered alongside three key challenges that must be overcome in order to deliver them: how it aligns with the application process for international students, how to ensure that students receive support from schools and colleges during the post-results offer-making period, and how the benefits of a cross-UK model for admissions are maintained.

The proposals follow over two years of extensive engagement by UCAS, and includes the input of nearly 15,000 applicants. 70% of student surveyed are in favour of a system that still allows for applications to be made before exams.

The report from UCAS comes a few weeks before the closure of a Department for Education consultation on the introduction of post-qualification admissions, which is asking for views on two different models for university admissions.

UCAS backs a variation of one of the models proposed, but strongly warned against any change that would see students making both applications and receiving offers after their exams in a pressured timeframe, as this could lead to poorer quality decisions by students, and increase dropout rates.

The report includes new UCAS research that shows students who apply late in the cycle, who have a shorter relationship with their chosen university, are more likely to drop out than those who apply by January.

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Andrea Gaini