UCAS plans admissions overhaul

Emily Loud - Deputy News Editor 3 November 2011

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has published proposals this week for the complete upheaval of the university admissions system. Under the plans now being considered students would apply for university after taking their A-Level exams, and the whole process would be condensed into a few summer months.

The current system, which students will recall begins for Oxbridge applicants during the summer after AS Levels, is one of application, interview, offer and post-results acceptance. As a result, university offers are made on the basis of predicted grades, a problematic system when only 51.7 per cent of all predictions are accurate, with 41.7 per cent being over-predictions.

These new measures are being considered after UCAS has condemned this process for being “complex, lacking in transparency for many applicants and inefficient and cumbersome for “.

A-Level examinations would be scheduled earlier in the year and students would then apply after getting their results in July. Students would only be allowed to apply to two institutions as opposed to the five options available to them at present. University courses would also all start in October in order to allow more time for the processing of applications.

However, it remains to be seen how the new system will accommodate the interview and offer process for Oxbridge, although fears have already been voiced across the board about the impracticality of processing all university applications in weeks when they are used to a gap of seven to ten months between application and acceptance.

The University has declined to comment in detail, but a spokesman told The Cambridge Student that the University and colleges will be carefully considering proposals, but that will take time and so they cannot make any comment at this stage.

Support among politicians has been more forthcoming. David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said that the government would be open to the plans, saying: “Making the university application process simpler and more efficient would be good news for students. It is important that applicants understand how the system works and that any unnecessary burdens on institutions are removed.”

Shabana Mahmood MP, Labour’s shadow Universities Minister, also welcomed the move, saying “We welcome the UCAS consultation on proposals to reform the applications system and its efforts to remove the uncertainty of applying to university, allowing students to apply based on the grades that they have actually achieved as opposed to applying based on guesswork.”

Consultation into the plans opened on Monday and conclusions will be presented in January.

Emily Loud – Deputy News Editor