NIACE welcomes university admissions review

31st October 2011

NIACE welcomes the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) consultation on a post-results higher education (HE) admissions system. The consultation is timely, given the government’s reforms to the HE system and its ambition to put students at its heart, and NIACE is pleased to see the distinct needs of mature and part-time students recognised in UCAS’s report. We hope government and institutions give it the consideration it deserves.

UCAS is right to say that the current admissions system is complex and hard to navigate and that it favours applicants from schools that know how to play the applications game. A post-results admissions process would be simpler, less chaotic and, in principle, fairer than the present system, in which applicants provide a combination of predicted grades, personal statements and teacher references. Research conducted by UCAS shows that just 52 per cent of predicted grades are correct.

NIACE believes it could be good news for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, whose exam performance is more likely to exceed their predicted results. It could also benefit those who have little access to the sort of informal advice and guidance students from more ‘traditional’ backgrounds take for granted and give them more opportunity to research their course options and prepare their applications.

However, while the proposals could make a positive contribution to efforts to widen participation, they would also create a huge logistical challenge for institutions, including schools and FE colleges, whose systems will require radical overhaul.

There are significant unanswered questions about the kind of support that will be available to students submitting their applications after their final grades are announced.

Dr Paul Stanistreet, NIACE’s policy lead for higher education, said:

“There is much to welcome in the review, and the creation of a more fit-for-purpose, student-centred admissions process is well overdue. The reforms would, of course, pose very significant logistical challenges for institutions, and will inevitably meet with resistance from some. But it will be critical that the needs of students, and not the convenience of institutions, guide the reform of the HE admissions process.”