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Report says students should apply to university after they get results

14 January 2019 | last updated: 15 January 2019

Students would apply to university after getting their results, under proposals in a report from UCU published today.

Post qualification application: a student-centred model for higher education admissions in England, Northern Ireland and Wales details how the admissions system could be overhauled after recent criticisms over the explosion in unconditional offers.

Under the plans, students would apply to university once their results were known, and start the first year of their higher education course in November. UCU said transforming the admissions process would be fairer for students, bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of unconditional offers and the chaotic clearing process.

Almost a quarter of students applying to university received at least one unconditional offer in 2018, compared to just 1% five years ago. Yet as few as one in six (16%) A-level grades are predicted correctly. No other countries use predicted grades to award university places, and seven in ten staff involved in university admissions back the move to post-qualification application (PQA).

Co-authored by Professor Graeme Atherton of the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) and UCU's Angela Nartey, the report also looks at how to improve advice for students when it comes to deciding what to study and calls on the government to commission an independent review of university admissions.

UCU head of policy, Matt Waddup, said: 'There is growing support for a shift to a system where students apply to university after they have received their results. This report sets out how that could work in practice. Such a move would not only be fairer for students, it would bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and the chaotic clearing process.

'The current admissions process based on predicted grades is failing students and needs an urgent overhaul. The time has come for the government to grasp the nettle on this issue and commission an independent review of higher education admissions to take forward the agenda.'

BBC Radio 4 coverage

Download: BBC Radio 4 Today programme on UCU's post-qualification application model [2mb]