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University admissions reform critical to achieving widening participation targets

12 February 2016

UCU said today that admissions reform is critical to achieving key targets on widening participation in higher education.

The union was responding to new guidance on university access published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which calls on universities to do more to attract underrepresented groups into higher education. UCU said that while outreach is essential, universities also need to work to remove the barriers presented by the application and admission process. 

A recent UCU report highlighted concern amongst admissions staff in relation to transparency and students' knowledge of the admissions process, with around half (48.6%) disagreeing that students understand how their university application would be assessed. The same survey showed strong support for a move to a post-qualification admissions system, where students are assessed on actual rather than predicted grades.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Warm words from government on university outreach aren't enough to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds get a fair shot at higher education.

'We know that too many young people don't understand the current admissions system, which is based on highly inaccurate predicted grades. We need a fairer, more transparent system which is based on actual achievement rather than estimates of potential.'