Reform and constant improvement are in UCAS’ DNA.
Over the years, UCAS has evolved the admissions service to better serve applicants and broaden participation, including the introduction of Clearing Plus in 2020, the release of a new application experience integrating UCAS Apply and UCAS Track in 2021, and the launch of seven new widening participation questions in the application in 2022.
UCAS' Reimagining UK Admissions report (2021)
We welcomed the Department for Education’s 2021 consultation on UK HE admissions and the opportunity to focus on improving outcomes for students.
During the consultation period, we gathered feedback and insights from nearly 15,000 students, universities, colleges, and conservatoires; over 700 teachers and their representative bodies; and sector stakeholders, to create our Reimagining UK Admissions report.
Read the full report and press release:
The Future of Undergraduate Admissions (2023)
Building on the findings of Reimagining UK Admissions, we have continued our engagement with the sector on reforming and improving admissions, recognising that while the Department for Education opted not to progress post-qualification admissions at this time, the consultation revealed appetite for alternative approaches to innovation.
The Future of Undergraduate Admissions report highlights UCAS' continued engagement and ongoing progress with admission reform, including:
- personal statements
- grades on entry
- widening access and participation
Read the report here (3.38 MB)
If you have any questions, comments or thoughts regarding potential reforms which you’d like to share with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More on the personal statement
Why are you changing the personal statement?
As identified in the report, students have mixed views on the personal statement.
They rely heavily on support from others in order to feel confident that they've covered all of the right information. In splitting the statement into a series of sections, it will be much clearer to students what supporting information really makes a difference to their application, making it simpler for applicants to express themselves as well as increasing their confidence that they have properly understood what they should include.
So, is the personal statement going?
The personal statement is being reformed not completely removed – we know that students want the space to advocate for themselves, and so we will not be removing this from the application.
What are the sections providers have identified so far, and why?
The following sections have been raised for inclusion by admissions staff in universities and colleges. They are intended to help admissions teams assess whether applicants are a good fit for the course, and how they might compare to other applicants for the same courses:
- Motivation for course: Why do you want to study these courses?
For some students this might relate to careers ambitions, for others it may be a simple love of the discipline. In considering this question, students will be ensuring through their research on courses that their options really do deliver against what they’re looking for – whether that’s sector body accreditation, a pathway to a specific profession or the opportunity for a deep dive into a subject area that fascinates them. Providers are looking for evidence that students understand that no two courses – even those with the same title – are the same, and that their course is a good match for the student.
- Preparedness for course: How has your learning so far helped you to be ready to succeed on these courses?
This is an opportunity for students to highlight what they’ve gained from school/college or other formal learning opportunity. This might be an A level curriculum helping them understand the breadth of a discipline and pointing them to further research into where their interests most lie. It may be specific skills and competencies related to the courses they want to go on to study. As always, answers will be personal to each student but key here is demonstration of understanding of what will help them succeed.
- Preparation through other experiences: What else have you done to help you prepare, and why are these experiences useful?
The experiences featured here are likely to be varied and may include activities such as self directed extracurricular learning, involvement in sports or social clubs, and employment or other work experience. What all responses should include is a reflection on why the activity is being referenced – what has been learned from it? What skills have been developed? What critical thought has been sparked, and what did the student do next as a result? Why will these things help them on their courses?
- Extenuating circumstances: Is there anything that the universities and colleges need to know about, to help them put your achievements and experiences so far into context?
Not all students will feel the need to respond to this question, but for those who strongly feel that they would like to contextualise their application in their own words, this space allows them to do this without 'spending' words they could be using to articulate their skills and suitability for the courses.
- Preparedness for study: What have you done to prepare yourself for student life?
Here students are encouraged to reflect on their transition to higher education with more independent learning and in some cases independent living. Again, providers are seeking to understand the extent to which applicants appreciate these changes and understand what they need to do to succeed.
- Preferred learning styles: Which learning and assessment styles best suit you – how do your courses choices match that?
Some students may favour high levels of contact time; others will thrive through independent study. Some may work best through group projects and others through solo work. Frequent practical assessments may suit some while long written examinations may be the preference of others. Again, providers want to see that students have considered this in making their choices, and want to be confident that the course and student are a good match.
How will you decide on the final set of questions?
We have a survey which is capturing wider feedback from customers and stakeholders to help us refine the theme for the questions. Once we have identified these, our user experience team will start to look at how we word the questions so that we can ensure all students understand exactly what is being asked of them.
When will these changes go live?
Although we don’t recommend launching a new approach before 2024 (for those starting courses in autumn 2025), we’re keen to hear from customers so that we can understand their own timelines for preparing for this change and will confirm timelines once we have this feedback.
What about video personal statements?
We know there’s interest in mixed media personal statements – whether that’s from providers offering courses where other skills such as performance are more relevant, or from students who feel they can better present themselves in ways other than writing. In splitting the personal statement into sections, we can start to explore combining written and other responses – but as always we will conduct significant customer and stakeholder engagement before making any decisions on this.