Higher education admissions have increased in complexity in recent decades as the number of students entering higher education has risen and their backgrounds have become more diverse. Higher education admissions need to be reformed and updated to better support students in an era where around half of young people enter higher education as opposed to less than 5%. At present, we have a higher education application cycle, which is little more than a set of dates where students have to complete the process of application to higher education. A higher education admissions system should be more than a cycle. It should be a set of support structures that enables students to make decisions about their higher education course and institution. It begins well before any application is made and includes preparation for as well as induction to higher education study.
At the moment, there are number of failings in the way we support students to progress to higher education:
- student decision making is based on a poor proxy for final achievement
- the system is poorly understood by students
- advertised grade requirements for courses do not always match the grade profile of students
- admitted clearing has too important a role
- there is unequal access to information,access and guidance
- unconditional offers are rising.
This report for UCU, authored by Dr Graeme Atherton (NEON) and Angela Nartey (UCU) describes a student-centred higher education admissions system which enables students to make the best decisions possible about their higher education destinations. At its centre needs to be a change to post-qualification application (PQA) whereby students apply to university after they have received their Level 3 qualifications. A UCU survey of members in 2015 found that seven in 10 respondents said that they would like to see a system in which applicants apply to university after they have received their grades. Having published research outlining the case for post-qualification application, the accuracy and impact of predicted grades, and a comparative international study, this report proposes a model for a post-qualification application system.
The full report can be accessed here.