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UK universities urged to reform admissions process to reduce confusion

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Universities UK will be reviewing the system. Source: Shutterstock

A survey by Universities UK recently found that a significant number of students are confused by unconditional offers made by universities and that they believe the admissions system could be more “fair”.

In the UK, unconditional offers are made to students before they’ve received their final grades. This system is in place to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds, but the poll found that over a quarter believed it’s not working well.

President Julia Buckingham of Universities UK wrote on The Guardian, “While most applicants have faith in university admissions, it is clear more needs to be done to support and win the confidence of those in underrepresented groups such as Black, Asian, and minority ethnic applicants who are less likely than white applicants to describe the system as fair (62 percent compared to 73 percent respectively).”

“The main complaint is that unhelpful careers advice is undermining the current process. It is therefore the job of universities, colleges, schools, employers and the government to work together to provide better support for all applicants. Failing to do so means we risk talent slipping through the cracks.”

Should UK universities switch to a post-qualification system?


According to TES, 55 percent of survey respondents who had already accepted a place said that their offers had made them complacent in studying for exams.

A third of applicants also felt that it was challenging not having their exam results before applying to university, while over half believe universities and colleges should only make offers after they have received their grades.

Universities UK has launched a fair admissions review which will include looking at the benefits and disadvantages of switching to a post-qualification system.

However, it could disrupt the admissions process already in place as well as school, college and university schedules.

Buckhingham wrote, “It is a frequently repeated myth that such a system is the norm across the world. But in most countries, including Australia, France, Germany and Canada, students apply to university several months before they take their final exams and don’t get their offers until after their exam results are known – similar to in the UK. Again, educators in these countries stress the importance of good quality careers advice.”

She also wrote that universities frequently make offers “shrouded in secrecy, meaning the very people who could benefit from them may be unaware of their existence.”

The survey found that 27 percent of those who received these contextual offers found it difficult to understand and differentiate between the different types of offers.

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