UK Universities Under Increasing Pressure To Reform Admissions Process
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Universities in the UK are looking into changing their admissions procedures after evidence emerged showing that a significant amount of disadvantaged and ethnic minority students are dissatisfied with the current process.
The Guardian has reported that a survey of universiy applicants conducted by vice-chancellors found that many black and other ethnic minority candidates - including those from a family without a higher education history - complained of certain obstacles during the application process.
The poll, conducted by Savanta ComRes and commissioned by Universities UK (UUK), surveyed 1,500 undergraduate applicants.
The poll found that less than two thirds of those asked said the system worked well, with black and ethnic minority applicants most likely to support an overhaul such as a changing applications after A-Level grades are published.
The survey was commissioned by the group representing 137 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for its admissions review to show that it is listening to reccommendations in order to improve the system.
Julia Buckingham, the vice-chancellor of the University of Brunel University London, and president of UUK, said: “On the whole university admissions are seen as fair but all students must have faith in the system and receive careers advice to help them make the best decisions about what and where to study.
“It is the job of universities, colleges, employers, schools and the government to work together to fill the gaps in good quality careers advice for applicants, and particularly to disadvantaged groups.”
Gavin Williamson, education secretary, has approved The Office for Students to conduct its own review of the admissions process.
Mr Williamson said: “I am glad the OfS is looking at whether it would be in students’ interests to apply for their university place after they have their A-level results.”
Students can either receive a conditional offer - under which they are accepted if they achieve certain A-level results, based on predictions - or an unconditional offer meaning they have been accepted regardless of their exam results.
Critics argue that predicted grades are notoriously unreliable and that conditional offers leave students in the lurch for months on end.
64% of participants in the survey said the process works well as it is but more than half said they would welcome major changes that would mean offers and acceptances being accepted in the winter before spring exams.
56% said universities and colleges should make offers only after receiving students' results.
70% of applicants agreed the current process was fair, however 12% disagreed complaining about poor career services, with some claiming the current system is 'biased towards upper and middle class applicants' with black minority and ethnic applicants less likely to rate it as fair.
Clare Marchant, the chief executive of Ucas said: “It’s welcome news that most students agree the current application process is fair, and that the clear majority of applicants felt supported when applying, particularly by Ucas.”
Marchant said her organisation was 'already exploring innovative reforms to the admissions process, including how changing when students receive offers could bring benefits'.
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