Monday, 2 April 2012

UCAS application system debate

UCAS have decided to scrap plans for a post-qualification application (PQA) system, but the debate won’t go away.

The Schwartz Report recommended a move to PQA in 2004, which involves students applying for university places with their actual grades. It has been argued that PQA would lead to a widening participation of people applying for university places and a greater fairness in places offered.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "Moving to a system where pupils apply to university with their actual grades is essential for improving social mobility." However, at the inaugural seminar of the Bridge Group, an association promoting social mobility through HE, members acknowledged that "whatever system is in place, the university application process will continue to pose challenges for disadvantaged students and those from non-traditional backgrounds".

Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes reported in July 2011 that PQA could allow universities to "target better students who perform well and come from difficult backgrounds or from areas which do not usually send young people to university". Hughes looked to universities in the US for inspiration, including Harvard University, which wrote "to every top performing 'minority' student in the country asking them to consider applying to Harvard".

Impact Magazine, run by students at the University of Nottingham, published a lead article by Ben James suggesting that PQA would lead to an increase in "quickly and poorly made decisions". It suggested that change was needed to "make the system more representative", but PQA was a false trail.

As it stands, predicted grades are not always used with necessary caution. Some of those with good grades who happen to miss their conditional places by a whisker struggle to find a place at all. As a report from BIS last year found, only half (51.7%) of all predicted grades were accurate, while 41.7% were worryingly over-predicted.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), in response to the government White Paper, pointed out that applicants from comprehensive schools "were more than twice as likely to have had a predicted grade lower than they achieved", 11.2% of those who achieved an A grade not having been predicted to. HEPI concludes: "Even if PQA proves to be impracticable, a better understanding of the relationship between predicted and actual achievement would be valuable to those making decisions as to whether to make an offer as well as to those making the predictions."

So the debate continues, but whatever application system is in place Words Worth ReadingLtd can help you improve your chances of a university offer with a well written UCAS personal statement.

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