The Deputy Prime Minister has called for a “UCas-style” admissions system for FE, but Gina Bradbury says that one already exists.

A ‘UCas-style’ system for young people making post-GCSE choices is already here — and UCas itself is powering the service.

When Nick Clegg stressed the need for such a service last month, it was a welcome recognition of the challenges around raising the participation age and helping young people make crucial decisions about their future education and career choices.

That’s why, 18 months ago, I was proud to oversee the launch of UCas Progress — a search-and-apply website for courses like BTecs, A-levels, apprenticeships and foundation programmes.

Much like the UCas undergraduate scheme, students fill in their details via an online profile which enables them to prepare and submit applications at any time.

The system can be accessed in the classroom, with teachers alongside to advise, or at home with parents offering a helping hand.

It’s designed with young people in mind and can be viewed on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets too.

Going national is the most exciting step of the project so far, and is another reason why the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments were so timely

The application phase of UCas Progress went live in October 2012, receiving more than 7,000 applications in the first eight weeks and today around half of local authorities in England are part of the scheme in some form.

The system handled 88,000 applications in the last academic year and has already surpassed that figure so far in 2014. These numbers make it the largest provider of course search and applications services for secondary education in the country.

The statistics prove that launching this dedicated post-16 application system was the right thing to do, and this September UCas Progress will become a truly national service when the ability to list courses and make applications will be open to all students, schools and colleges.

This means that wherever they live, young people can use UCas Progress research study options locally or further away, whether that’s a BTec in plumbing or an A-level in maths.

Going national is the most exciting step of the project so far, and is another reason why the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments were so timely.

UCas Progress is also helping councils fulfil a whole range of statutory obligations to young people in their local authority area.

For example, it supports the delivery of Raising the Participation Age (RPA), which will extend to 18-year-olds next year and it is a powerful tool for early identification of young people at risk of becoming Neet (not in education, employment or training).

And we can help meet the requirements of the ‘September Guarantee’, ensuring that each young person will have an offer of a suitable place in education or training. It also provides essential tracking and student destination data as required by government.

UCas Progress can play a key role in helping schools, academies and FE colleges meet their obligations to provide impartial information and advice through our Inform service which will launch in spring.

This service will provide comprehensive, high quality information about post-16 options, videos and interactive content as well as signposting to other sources of information and advice.

At heart of all this work is that fact that UCas cares passionately about helping young people make the right choices.

We recognise that higher education isn’t right for everyone, but we believe everyone should have access to the right information and support to make informed decisions about their future.

Gina Bradbury is head of progress at the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCas)