The Annual Conference for Teachers and Advisers 2024

UCAS was delighted to host over 500 delegates in Birmingham’s Eastside Rooms for the annual conference. With the focus on interactive workshops, audience discussion and plenty of networking opportunities, it was a busy two days packed with expert voices from across the education sector.
Posted Mon 4 March 2024 - 10:48

It was my first time and so useful, the networking and ideas from fellow careers professionals was priceless.

Careers adviser

Key operational takeaways for those unable to attend 

This is the first cycle where the new reference format has been used, and we have been collecting feedback from advisers and providers through a variety of channels, including surveys and in-person engagements. It is still too early in the cycle to assess the impact of the reform, but initial feedback has been positive, with some clear directions for improvements. Providers and advisers have welcomed the clarity of the layout, though have identified that increased clarity is needed to support completing Sections 2 and 3. 

The reference session at the conference reinforced the need for additional good practice examples from providers, and highlighted a wide variety of practice in both creation and use of the reference. Mike Nicholson from the University of Cambridge, reflected that the substance of the reference was more important than the style, and some advisers shared positive experiences with the new format. 

  • It is important that UCAS sees a full cycle before making any decisions on technical changes, so the format will remain the same for 2025 entry.
  • Reference guidance resources will be enhanced based on adviser feedback from our recent survey and rolled out in May 2024.

Personal statement reform

When we surveyed students on their views on personal statements in 2022, we found that they valued the opportunity to advocate for themselves in their own words, but 87% reported it to be a stressful experience. Personal statement reform will make it easier for them to navigate this step of the application journey. 

Following research with providers, advisers and students, we’re moving from a “blank piece of paper” approach to a structured scaffold. In their application, students will see three focused questions to help them better understand what it is providers want to know about. 

Providers generated an initial list of seven possible areas, which were tested with all customer groups through our advisory groups, webinars, and in person reform roadshows, before final feedback was gathered through our open consultation in 2023. The three areas are below, and we anticipate that all three will be mandatory: 

  • Motivation for course 
  • Preparedness for course 
  • Preparation through other experiences 

Based on adviser feedback, we know that students often start working on their personal statements age 16-17 so we are currently testing on wording, character count and the resources you need so you have the required supporting materials in good time. Advisers are invited to join our new panel to continue feeding into requirements. We will be releasing the timeline for activity in spring.

  •  There will be no changes to the personal statement until 2025 for 2026 undergraduate applications.
  • For 2026 applications, students will see three focused questions to help them better understand what providers want to know about. 
  • UCAS will be releasing a timeline for delivery of supporting adviser resources in April.
  • Advisers can join the new panel to feed directly into service developments through surveys and webinars.

Shape of the cycle

At the conference we shared our plans to look at a wider project around admissions reform, following the Dates and Deadlines Consultation before December. From that survey we received 2,000 responses with a clear theme that the proposed changes weren’t enough, and that there needed to be a wider, more holistic approach to addressing some of the challenges in the current system.  

We talked about common themes that have been surfaced in the consultation, asked the audience to reflect on these, and suggest any additional themes that they felt should be included. 

  • Number and timing of choices 
  • Insurance choice 
  • Extra 
  • Clearing 
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Waiting lists 
  • Embargo periods/“dead” time 

We will be continuing the shape of the cycle conversations over the next few months, and welcome additional input through the new adviser panel.

UCAS Hub Discovery

Students exploring their options through UCAS will soon be able to virtually experience university and the world of work thanks to a new strategic partnership with careers platform, Springpod.

At the conference we heard from Springpod’s Jo Bishop about the power of online discovery and all the exciting developments in the UCAS Hub.

By logging into their UCAS Hub, students will have free access to:

  • Subject Spotlights: Interactive university course tasters which feature real-life lectures, seminars and academics, giving prospective students the opportunity to experience a variety of degree subjects that they may be considering studying.
  • Work Experiences: Immersive and informative virtual work experiences with leading employers such as the NHS, Network Rail, and Airbus. These incorporate real workplace activities – from attending a live surgery to designing a lunar landing module – and the chance to speak with, and hear from, industry professionals.

Look out for details on all these items and more, including predicted grades and our new entry grades data for students in the UCAS adviser newsletter – out Wednesday 7 March.

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