GCSEs

Exam dates could be brought forward or ‘compressed’ to allow for extra time to process university applications under new proposals for post-qualification admissions (PQA).

The Department for Education opened its consultation into the proposed changes for a PQA system into higher education today.

One model would see students apply to university after receiving their A-level results, while a second model would allow pupils to make ‘pre-qualification’ applications but would likewise only receive offers after results are announced.

Under the first model there would be the need for a longer application window which would be created by moving A-level results day forward from mid-August to the end of July and pushing back university term start dates to “no earlier than the first week of October”.

This would allow “at least six weeks” for the processing of applications and the making of offers.

The DfE explains it is exploring different options which would allow it to move results day earlier with the preferred route being “to compress the exam timetable, the marking period and the requirement for UCAS to receive results data well in advance of results day”.

Another option could include exams being held earlier “but the feasibility and impact of this” will be explored through the consultation.

Under this model it is noted students may require support in choosing courses and completing applications but if teachers were expected to provide this support it could have implications for their statutory terms and conditions.

The consultation states: “Our preference would be to avoid affecting teachers’ conditions or workloads as much as possible.”

Under the second model, applications would be made during term-time, as they are now, but offers would come after results day.

A benefit of this model would be students “require significantly less support over the summer with their applications” – which would have less impact on teachers.

The DfE states this route could be implemented with smaller changes to results day – only bringing it forward by a week or two – and term start dates and “could create a longer window of approximately 9-10 weeks for the making and accepting of offers”.

Learners would apply in the normal way at around the same time as they currently do. However applications would be held in the system until results day and offers are only made once results are known.

In order to ensure no offers are made in advance a third party, such as UCAS, would hold the full application until results day – with headline data released to providers to enable the planning on intakes.

Gavin Williamson explained the proposal has come about as it “is becoming increasingly evident that the current system of admissions to higher education is preventing some students from reaching their full potential at the first hurdle” and PQA could “level-up” admissions for disadvantaged students.

UCAS previewed this consultation last November, by putting forward the option of a post-qualification admissions system, or a post-qualifications application model where the entire process of applying for university or college took place after results were distributed.

Post-qualification admissions was the preferred option, as UCAS’ director of strategy, policy and public affairs John Cope said it could “significantly” level up the playing field for further education and skills providers.

Last year a study by the Sutton Trust into reforming university admissions 66 per cent of just over 500 students surveyed in September felt a post-qualification approach would be fairer than the current system of predicted grades, with 30 per cent saying it would be “much fairer”.

In the equality analysis accompanying the consultation it finds that PQA “is likely to have a positive impact on high attaining but disadvantaged students”.

While some evidence suggests “students from a white background are more likely to be positively impacted by moving to a system no longer based on predicted grade . .. in any case, it is likely that White and Black students will benefit most from the implementation of post qualification admissions.”

The consultation closes on May 13.