In September 2010, the UCAS Board ratified a new corporate strategy which included a fundamental review of admissions processes. The review was initiated because:
- there was evidence that incremental changes over the years had made the system complex and difficult to navigate.
- the UCAS technology platform was in need of renewal and this provided the opportunity to review the processes it supports.
- in England significant changes were likely to follow the funding and policy changes introduced by the Coalition Government; changes were also likely in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- in recent years, there had been significant increases in the volume of applications, the diversity of qualifications supporting applications, changes in applicant profiles and needs, and an increasing diversity in providers and modes of delivery.
- advances in technology have significantly changed the expectations of users of the UCAS system in terms of service, responsiveness and flexibility.
- the information needs of learners and the higher education sector have changed.
Principles of the review
The UCAS Board and the Steering Group agreed a number of underlying principles both to inform the review and to establish what an effective admissions process must continue to deliver. These indicate the need for the admissions process to:
- be fair and support access for all applicants.
- put the needs of applicants at the heart of the system.
- be able to cope with a wide diversity of applicants.
- be an efficient and effective process delivering member efficiencies and minimising unnecessary transactions and cost.
- consider synergies with student finance and other external agencies.
- deliver a net benefit to applicants, members, stakeholders and UCAS.
Scope and methodology
The scope of the review initially focussed on full-time undergraduate admissions to higher
education. Although some work has been done to consider whether UCAS could better support admissions to part-time undergraduate study and postgraduate taught courses, more work is needed on these areas and will be the subject of further review in 2012.
The review set out to provide both qualitative and quantitative evidence with which to assess the current admissions process and understand the scope for improvement.
The review work included:
- conducting research with 23 HEIs from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales which included in-depth site visits to map processes and understand work flows and effort for each part of the process.
- 21 HEI drop-in sessions for admissions staff to engage in the review, comment on the findings and emerging models and to share local issues.
- 11 site visits focussing on technology issues for HEIs; six IT supplier workshops; workshops with the University Forum for In-House Systems and with the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (Corporate Information Systems Group); briefings at technical seminars for software houses and suppliers.
- interviews and focus groups with applicants, schools and FE colleges, advisers and parents.
- stakeholder workshops including Universities UK, Guild HE, the Association of Colleges, the Student Loans Company, OFFA, the Russell Group, UCAS Schools Advisory Groups, Arty Admissions and Academic Registrars Council (ARC).
- research on international admissions systems covering Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ontario, Ireland, Croatia, British Columbia, and Australia (Victoria, New South Wales, Central, and South and Northern Territories).
- seven regional workshops to give admissions practitioners the opportunity to explore the findings from the site visits and comment on the developing models.
- surveys of current applicants, students, re-appliers, and UCAS members.
- statistical analysis using UCAS historical data.
Once the evidence collection had been completed, the UCAS Admissions Process
Review team started developing admissions models which were shared and iterated with a number of stakeholders as outlined above.