UK universities
Students could soon be swapping to a better university in second and third year with ease. Source: Element5 Digital/Unsplash

It is a common tale. Students miss their top choice university by one or two grades. It happens for many reasons and often does not reflect the abilities of the student in question.

But now those students are likely to be given a second chance. Plans by the United Kingdom government could see universities accepting second- and third-year undergraduates who are succeeding at rival institutions.

Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson has released the government’s vision for higher education. The system allows students to transfer from one institution to another without the loss of credits for previously completed modules.

The Guardian reported UCAS, the UK‘s higher education admissions service, said the greater “portability of qualifications” is “vital”. Last week, UCAS confirmed plans are underway to change its website to allow students to search for course vacancies in the second and third years.

With high competition already plaguing the university market, the ability to poach students from other institutions could prove to be damaging for some.

Mike Nicholson, director of student admissions at Bath University, told The Guardian the university already hears from second-year students interested in moving there. Many of them are international students and often wish to “trade up” from a lower-ranked institution.

Nicholson fears this could be detrimental for many lowly ranked universities.

He told The Guardian: “If you are an admissions officer and you work really hard to get students to come into your first year, and then you find half of them disappear to the university up the road in the second year, what do you do then? Do you try to recruit students from the university in the next town to make up your numbers?”

However, there are two sides to the argument. “This extra competition,” he added, “could act as a stimulus for universities and courses to up their game and make sure they are giving students the experience they want and have been promised.”

Over at Aston University, vice-chancellor Alec Cameron said there is a “strong ethical argument” for enabling students to switch university or course without loss of credit. He claimed that anyone against the proposal is not thinking of students’ best interests.

In Australia and the US, credit transfer is commonplace and not a special exception. Students in the UK may soon join the revolution of free movement between universities. Those who realise all too late that they embarked on the wrong course or chose the wrong university could finally be able to right their wrongs without losing everything.

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