In 2021, the Department for Education launched a consultation to hear views from universities, students and other organisations on whether to change the current system of higher education admissions and move to a system of post-qualification admissions (PQA) in England, Scotland, and Wales.
Under the current model, students apply to university, receive offers, and select where they would like to go before receiving their A-level results:
A PQA system could take several different forms. In Model 1, students apply to university and select where they would like to go after results day:
In Model 2, students apply to university before results day but receive and confirm their offers after receiving their A-level results:
The main difference between the current system and the proposed PQA models therefore lies in whether university applications and final decisions are made before or after results day, as well as the reliance on predicted versus actual grades.
We knew that changes to the university admissions system would greatly impact the students who take part in our programmes. So we hosted a series of focus groups with 29 Year 12 and 4 undergraduate students in April 2021 to hear their views on the proposals. We wanted to share the views of students with policymakers because we think it is important they consider the opinions of young people who will be directly affected by any changes to university admissions.
Our focus groups formed the basis of our Department for Education consultation and subsequent consultation response to the Education Select Committee on the same topic. You can read a blog we also published on our website with anonymous contributions from students here.
Last week, the Government announced that it will not be changing the timeline university admissions system to post-qualification admissions. Instead, it has plans to work with UCAS to make the current admissions system more transparent, reduce the use of unconditional offers and reform personal statements to make them fairer for applicants of all backgrounds. It acknowledged that, in the wake of Covid-19 and significant educational disruption, now is not the time for wholesale reform. Focus should instead be on education recovery and re-establishing a normal exam timetable.
While we do not yet know full details of the changes or their impact on students, particularly those from less advantaged backgrounds, it was heartening to see some of our proposals acknowledged in the Education Secretary’s response to the consultation.
We were pleased to have the opportunity to put the voices of our students to policymakers and intend to carry out a similar exercise in the coming months to inform our response to proposals on higher education access and funding.
You can find out more about our policy work here.