21 January 2021

Students could receive A-level grades earlier and start university in October

21 January 2021

A-level results day could be moved forward and the start of university could be pushed back under Government proposals to reform the admissions system.

The Department for Education has launched its consultation on moving to a post-qualifications admissions (PQA) system, where applicants receive university places based on their actual exam results.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the current use of predicted grades limits students’ aspirations and disproportionately affects children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

In the foreword to the consultation, he said: “I want to smash through ceilings that are preventing students from reaching their full potential, and I believe exploring this reform will help to do that.”

One option being considered would see students apply to university and receive offers from institutions after A-level results day.

I want to smash through ceilings that are preventing students from reaching their full potential, and I believe exploring this reform will help to do that

Meanwhile, a second option would see students make applications during term-time, as they do now, but offers would only be made after results day.

Under both models, it is proposed that results day would be brought forward from the middle of August to the end of July and the university term would begin “no earlier than the first week of October”.

The change in the timetable for the school year would give universities more time to process applications, it suggests.

Exams could also be held earlier on, but “the feasibility and impact of this” will need to be explored further, the consultation says.

It comes after vice-chancellors and Ucas outlined proposals to move away from predicted grades and allow places to be offered after A-level results day.

The consultation will also consider whether personal statements should be removed from the application process as evidence suggests advantaged students are more likely to receive support and guidance with them.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “It has never been more important to level the playing field to ensure young people of all backgrounds have the very best opportunities to succeed for the future.

“We know the current system of using predicted grades for university admissions can let down pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and limit aspirations.

“That is why we are consulting and working with the sector to explore how to achieve a system which works better to propel students into promising opportunities, and allows schools, colleges and universities to support them to reach their full potential.”

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, vice president for higher education at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “NUS has consistently campaigned for an admissions system that puts students’ needs at the heart of it, and we look forward to engaging with the new consultation on PQA to ensure it works for students.”

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said: “We’ve been working on this for some time and believe there’s never been a better time for looking at real structural reform of higher education admissions alongside the reform that Ucas has been embarking on for the last number of years.

“Before we submit our consultation response we’ll be engaging with stakeholders across the UK; universities, colleges, teachers and advisers, and most importantly, students and parents.”

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