UCAS announces its intention to move fair admissions resources online

Posted Fri 7 July 2017 - 11:55
Following its annual planning and budgeting exercise, UCAS is announcing its intention to withdraw funding from the Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA) programme by 31 December 2017, and move to an online delivery model for its services.

During a period of consultation, UCAS and the SPA team will explore alternative models for funding and running the programme.

UCAS also intends to continue to fund and commission updates and new good practice from external experts, where there is sufficient demand from the admissions community.

Over the last 11 years, SPA has played a significant role in championing fair admissions, and providing evidence-based good practice and expertise to enable universities and colleges to take forward fair admissions for the benefit of students. UCAS has funded SPA from the outset ,and been the sole funder since 2015-16.

UCAS has a responsibility to ensure that the income it receives from students and higher education providers delivers maximum benefit by providing high value services that are used by all universities and colleges, or which help students to make well informed choices and effective applications. 

Helen Thorne, Director of External Relations said, “It is never an easy decision to stop funding a service which has contributed to the higher education sector in the way SPA has, but we believe this is the right time to make a change.

“As such, it is no longer cost-effective for UCAS to fund the SPA programme on the current basis. We remain committed to supporting fair admissions, and will ensure that resources are available for the admissions community.

“The sector has evolved enormously, moving to a more market-orientated model since SPA's creation, and those changes, along with cost-effectiveness considerations and the number of other organisations working to support good practice about aspects of student recruitment, have driven this decision.

“UCAS will be doing everything it can to support the SPA team during this challenging time, and we are keen to hear from organisations who may be interested in supporting their work in alternative ways. I would like to thank all the colleagues who have worked for SPA both now and in the past. They have made a tangible impact on the way universities and colleges develop and improve their admissions practices, and their legacy will be a lasting one.”    

Janet Graham, Director of SPA said “I and the SPA team are of course disappointed with this decision. and would welcome the opportunity to discuss alternative funding models. Our expertise and services have been valued by the sector, and we wish to thank all colleagues in universities, colleges and other organisations who have worked with us to ensure our good practice resources reflect and support their needs.”


  1. The SPA programme was set up in 2006 to 'promote fair admissions and access to HE in the UK by developing and leading on good practice in the recruitment and selection of students”.  It does this by working with the higher education sector to identify and describe good practice, and promote this through a variety of channels.
  2. SPA was initially funded by the four UK funding councils, with support in kind from UCAS. HEFCE withdrew its funding from 2012, with UCAS and Universities UK bearing more of the cost. Following an independent review in 2014-15, UCAS agreed to fund SPA in its entirety from 2015-16.
  3. UCAS is keen to hear from organisations or HE providers who might be interested in contributing to the funding of SPA, and the team also has an opportunity to develop and put forward alternative funding proposals. Please contact Helen Thorne, Director of External Relations at UCAS: h.thorne@ucas.ac.uk, or Janet Graham, Director of SPA: j.graham@spa.ac.uk to discuss further.


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