On 31 October, UCAS published one of the most comprehensive reviews of the university admissions process that has served the higher education sector and applicants well for 50 years ever since the inception of UCCA in 1961. However, the changing profile and needs of applicants and new approaches to the funding of higher education have combined to create a very different environment both for the provision of higher education and for those wishing to apply to study. Our review of the admissions system and our proposals for reform are therefore timely.
We are consulting on a range of improvements to the current admissions model for 2014 and potential model for a post-results admission system. These developments are designed to deliver significant benefits to applicants and efficiencies for HEIs. The earliest that this could be delivered would be 2016, recognising that many stakeholders would need to be involved in preparing and implementing a change of this kind.
We believe that this approach would enhance the applicant experience across the entire admissions process while also delivering cost savings and efficiencies for institutions. The consultation process will run until 20 January 2012.
We launched this consultation knowing that there are many questions still unanswered and that there are complexities across the different school, college and higher education systems in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland yet to be solved. However, we think it is right to consult now on our work so far, acknowledging that there would need to be agreement from the four UK administrations and that a technical design and consultation phase would need to follow any decisions arising from this exercise.
The review highlights many positive features about the current admissions system. However the review also identified a number of aspects of the current system which could be improved and optimised to provide efficiencies for HEIs and benefits for applicants.
- younger applicants would be able to make better informed choices if they were able to apply later in the admissions cycle
- the current UCAS admissions process is complex and many applicants find it hard to understand
- well supported applicants and knowledgeable advisers can optimise the outcomes of UCAS applications
- the system of insurance choices is not well used by some applicants and creates significant operational problems for HEIs
- the Clearing system can be inefficient for HEIs and stressful for applicants
- UCAS is a one-size-fits-all system which could better meet the needs of different groups of applicants such as international, part-time, and mature applicants, and institutions who wish to offer different intensities of study and alternative start dates
We have explored a number of options to address these findings. The consultation document sets out the models which, based on the admissions review evidence, seek to respond to these findings in a balanced way.