IT IS, AT first look, an odd strategy to do issues. Universities in England resolve early within the 12 months whether or not to make affords to candidates, earlier than they’ve any thought of how nicely they’ve completed of their school-leaving exams, often called A-levels, that are taken in the summertime. As a substitute, would-be college students present their marks in earlier assessments, a “private assertion” boasting of their brilliance and—most controversially—the A-level grades their lecturers count on them to get. Universities then make affords which might be often conditional on the coed attaining sure grades in the summertime. This 12 months’s candidates came upon if they’d made the reduce on August 15th.
They might be among the many final to undergo the bizarre course of. This week the Labour Get together threw its help behind another system, during which potential college students would apply to college after they’d acquired their grades. Such a transfer is already backed by the UCU, a commerce union for lecturers, and the Sutton Belief, an influential schooling charity. Universities UK, which represents universities, and the OFS, the higher-education regulator, are additionally contemplating reforms.
It isn’t laborious to search out flaws within the present system. Proof suggests lecturers over-predict the grades that much less well-off pupils will obtain—besides in relation to the cleverest, whom they have a tendency to underestimate. Having pupils apply earlier than they know their outcomes makes it tougher to get unconfident ones to goal excessive, says Anna Vignoles, an schooling tutorial at Cambridge College. Making use of with precise outcomes may additionally cut back the significance of private statements, which supplies an edge to these with pushy mother and father or lecturers.
College bureaucrats fear in regards to the upheaval concerned in Labour’s proposal. If the appliance course of have been squeezed into the present timetable, some dons must spend the summer season screening candidates reasonably than doing analysis (or having fun with the solar). It could additionally put candidates underneath stress to make a life-changing choice in a short time. Mike Nicholson, head of admissions on the College of Bathtub, worries that dashing up the method would make it laborious for universities to tailor affords to the background of candidates, as most now do.
Many of those issues may very well be solved by a extra radical rejigging of the college calendar, maybe with the educational 12 months beginning in January (because it already does for some postgraduate and worldwide college students) reasonably than September. And the change to a post-qualification admissions course of ought finally to imply much less work for universities. Beneath the present system pupils apply to as much as 5 universities, to insure in opposition to better- or worse-than-expected outcomes. In the event that they knew their outcomes when making use of they might most likely apply to fewer locations, which means much less paperwork for the schools. In 2011 an estimate by UCAS, the nationwide physique that runs admissions, recommended that such a change may save universities £18m ($29m) a 12 months.
The system is already shifting within the route of post-qualification admissions. Final 12 months one in ten college students acquired a spot after receiving their outcomes, through a system often called clearing. This has lengthy been a approach for college kids who miss their grades to discover a last-minute different place. Now it’s typically used to commerce up, when pupils method higher-ranked universities after getting better-than-expected grades. One other current shift has been a pointy rise within the variety of unconditional affords, as universities compete to draw college students (a lot to the priority of lecturers, who concern that no-strings affords make pupils slack off of their exams). A change of admissions methods could be tough. However even some vice-chancellors are beginning to suppose that it is likely to be worthwhile. ■