UCAS responds to Labour’s proposed changes to the higher education admissions system

Posted Tue 13 August 2019 - 22:30

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said: ‘It’s essential that admissions to higher education remain fair, accurate, and a vehicle for social justice. While a post-results admissions service has a natural appeal, the UK-wide consultation UCAS ran in 2012 showed that, if introduced wholesale within the current timetables, it would be likely to significantly disadvantage underrepresented and disabled students, unless secondary and/or university calendars changed.

‘Young people need their teachers’ support when making application choices, and this isn’t readily available to all at the scale required when schools and colleges are closed during August. Once students have a place, they need time to find accommodation, finalise their financial support, and to prepare for their studies. Universities and colleges need time for interviews, auditions, and considering contextual information about applicants, and time to put in place support services to help care leavers, first in family, and disabled students, transition into higher education.

‘Developing a post-qualifications admissions (PQA) service that works for everyone would require the clear support of students, teachers, qualification awarding bodies, the Student Loans Company, and universities and colleges, as well as a solution to timescale challenges.

‘Under the current system, around 78% of applicants receive their first choice of university or college, regardless of their background. Clearing provides a PQA service for those students who want to wait until they have their results before applying, and in 2018 more than 17,500 students were accepted directly through this route. 87% of applicants placed in Clearing said they were happy, or extremely happy, with the application process.

‘We’re working with students to extend flexibility and choice – for example, this year we have made it easier for them to change their minds and take advantage of new opportunities during the admissions cycle. Our admissions service protects students, enabling them to exercise their consumer rights, supporting fair admissions for all to UK higher education.

‘It’s important to remember that predicted grades are just one part of a student’s application. Universities take a holistic view of applicants’ achievements and potential when deciding whether to make an offer. Personal statements, references, interviews, and auditions can be as important when assessing if an individual will flourish on a course.

‘Disadvantaged students are more likely to be over-predicted, which can encourage them to make aspirational choices, with universities making realistic offers, and taking near miss candidates when confirming places.

‘Last year, student satisfaction with UCAS and the services we provide increased to 92%.’


UCAS Press Office

01242 545 469



Notes to editors

The UK has a rich and diverse higher education system, with a strong focus on student choice. Making comparisons between the UK system and other countries isn’t straightforward. A thorough understanding of each country’s education system is needed to understand the admissions procedures. Many countries which operate a post-qualification admissions system have a centralised university entrance exam, with guaranteed places for all eligible students. The UK is significantly different, as we have numerous secondary qualifications and selection on entry to higher education.

UCAS has worked with a group of experienced advisers to provide a series of best practice guides for teachers and advisers when predicting grades for their students’ applications, including case study examples from several universities. 

As part of UCAS’ ongoing commitment to transparency in admissions, we published our latest analysis on unconditional offers in July 2019.

UCAS welcomes working with students, universities, colleges, and other partners to develop the undergraduate admissions service – for example, the recently announced Universities UK review of admissions practice. The outcomes and findings from UCAS’ 2012 Admissions Process Review are published online. 

About UCAS

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is a charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. We manage almost three million applications, from around 700,000 people each year, for full-time undergraduate courses at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

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