The government has announced that it will review higher education admissions to improve social mobility. Gavin Williamson says the current admissions system penalises bright pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds. While the overall trend is for grades to be over-predicted, Institute of Education research says that socially disadvantaged students are likely to be marked down.
The current long-drawn-out process where students spend hours selling themselves in UCAS applications, would, unless university starts were put back to the following January, be condensed into a manic fortnight. The change could also pose challenges for courses that require interviews.
The review is also likely to examine and propose an end to “unconditional offers” by which (now about I in 4) students are offered places regardless of exam results if they make an institution their firm choice – this is opposed by most in education because it demotivates students in their exams. But this system shouldn’t be dismissed completely:
Likewise the new proposals make huge assumptions about university applicants – less than half are school leavers with A-levels wanting to start higher education immediately – gap years are now increasingly common, approaching a third of school/college leavers take these and delay their applications.
If adopted the proposals will further increase the role of ‘high-stakes / all or nothing’ exams ( now mostly devoid of coursework) in determining the futures of young people. If they do go ahead, then there should be alternative channels for those following different routes to secure university places -as well as those on gap years, those on vocational courses, but also adults who have followed less conventional routes.