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UK’s current university admissions system is ‘broken’ – UCU

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Only a mere 16 percent of predicted A-Level results are correct, highlighting calls for an overhaul of the UK’s university admissions system.

Research commissioned by the University and College Union (UCU) looked at the A-Level results of 1.3 million students over a three-year period and found that most students applying to university have better predicted results than their actual results.

The study, conducted by Dr Gill Wyness of the University College London Institute of Education, showed that five out of every six predicted results were wrong – 75 percent over-predicted, while nine percent under-predicted.

UCU said the study’s findings added weight to calls across the higher education sector to revamp the applications systems, which currently allows students to apply to university based on predicted grades.

“It’s time the UK employed the same system as the rest of the world and allowed students to apply with firm results, not predictions,” it added.

The union said implementing a post-qualifications admission (PQA) system, where students apply using their final results, would create greater certainty for both students and institutions, and would abolish the need for unconditional offers, which the UCU called “unethical”.

The report stated that a greater proportion of over-predicted students had to go through clearing to obtain a place in university.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said in a statement: “This report exposes the vast majority of predicted grades as guestimates, which are not fit to be the basis on which young people and universities take key decisions about their futures.

“This report is a damning indictment on a broken system, not the hard-working teachers tasked with the impossible job of trying to make predictions. It is quite absurd that the UK is the only country that persists with using such a broken system.”

The report also found that while state schools were most likely to over-predict, the grades of the most able students from disadvantaged backgrounds are most likely to be underestimated, pushing them to apply to lower-tariff institutions for which they were overqualified.

According to a report released by UCU last year, 70 percent of university admissions staff supported a shift to a PQA system. The UCU argues that the system would introduce greater transparency in the application and admission process, particularly given the lifting of the cap on student numbers.

Image via Shutterstock

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