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UCAS considers January start for HE in application reform

The UK’s university admission service UCAS will suggest reforms “in the coming weeks” that could mean offers for places at UK institutions will be based on students’ actual grades rather than predictions – the new modelling could mean the new academic year starting in January.

UCAS announced a move to work with the international postgraduate student market via the acquisition of MO University Assistant this year. Photo: pexels

"It's too early to say how any changes to the admissions system would specifically impact on international students"

While it remains unclear how this could affect international students, UCAS has said it has the potential to impact their admission processes.

“We are calling for a conversation about options to reform admissions”

The “radical” options for reform would have “far-reaching impact and better support students from disadvantaged backgrounds”, according to the organisation.

UCAS is considering switching its processes so that all students would receive place offers at universities and colleges on the same day, after receiving qualification results in the summer.

Under this model, offers would be based on UK students’ actual grades, rather than teachers’ predictions,.

The university term would need to begin in January to allow sufficient time for support from teachers, as well as applications to be submitted, assessed, and offers made and accepted after receiving A-level results, UCAS indicated.

If such a model were to be adopted, this means the UK academic year would operate on the same calendar year process that currently is in place in Australia.

“Now is the time to take a serious look at reforming the admissions timetable, which we have been doing over the last few months with universities, colleges, students, and schools,” said UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant.

“It is absolutely crucial though that we limit any unintended consequences of such major change. UCAS is ready to innovate and we look forward to sharing full details in the coming weeks, and working with colleagues from across the education sector in the UK to develop these ideas further.”

Earlier this year, UCAS announced a bold new move to work with the international postgraduate student market via the acquisition of MO University Assistant.

UCAS’ previous Admissions Process Review findings were published in March 2012, which found that while a post-results system would be “desirable”, too many unresolved systemic issues in a proposed post-results model remained.

“Further work is required to develop a more tailored process for international applicants,” UCAS said at the time.

“Complex issues” issues including institutions wanting the autonomy to recruit international applicants “more likely to apply with a single institution and course in mind”, as well as the option to work with agents, were also raised in the previous review.

A centralised system where international students only apply via UCAS could harm relationship-building between UK institutions and partners overseas, the review highlighted.

“If HEIs couldn’t give international applicants the security of conditional offers early in the cycle they may accept offers from other countries, particularly the USA and Australia, rather than wait for a decision from the UK,” the organisation said previously.

However, it is “too early to say how any changes to the admissions system would specifically impact on international students”, a UCAS spokesperson told The PIE News today.

“We are calling for a conversation about options to reform admissions and we want to ensure that international applicants are central to discussions about how admissions will work in the future,” they said.

“UCAS is ready to innovate and we look forward to sharing full details in the coming weeks”

“The majority of 18 year old international applicants are made conditional offers in the same way as UK students, with references and predicted grades from teachers and advisers forming an important part of the application process.”

Dean for Internationalisation at the University of Kent, Anthony Manning – who sits on the UCAS International Advisory Group – added that admissions reform “warrants ongoing review and attention so that the needs of students and institutions can suitably taken into account and more accurately met”.

“Discussions with key stakeholder groups are essential when considering such innovations in admissions, and it is clear that UCAS is proactive in that endeavour,” he said.

“This is exactly the kind of matter which is discussed at the UCAS International Advisory Group, which draws its membership from a broad cross-section of HEIs and other sector representatives.”

Full details on the two models being proposed and how UCAS will collect and review feedback on them will be published in the coming weeks.

“We will outline options in the coming weeks and we look to welcoming the review of representatives from the international student community,” the UCAS spokesperson added.

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