UCAS scoring plan for apprenticeships draws criticism

Two university groups have criticised the admissions body's proposals to award points based on the length of the apprenticeship

Two university groups have criticised the admissions body's proposals to award points based on the length of the apprenticeship

Plans to integrate apprenticeships into the university admissions points system are a “missed opportunity”, university groups have said.

Under the proposals people with level 3 apprenticeships are awarded up to 112 points in the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) applications system from September.

Points would be calculated based on the duration of an apprenticeship set out by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE).

But in its response to the consultation, which closed on June 20, the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) said the plans were “well-meaning” but had “pitfalls”.

And the University Alliance, which represents 16 professional and technical universities, called the proposals “an unforced error”.

Both bodies prefer the model used in Scotland which applies credit values to apprenticeships.

UVAC’s formal response to the proposed UCAS points system, shared with FE Week, suggests a system that gives one credit for 10 hours of teaching. It argued UCAS should build an apprenticeship’s credit number into the standards development process.

UVAC, which represents around 90 universities, HE institutions and awarding bodies, added: “Sadly the proposal, while well-meaning, is a missed opportunity to align apprenticeships with the rest of higher education provision that the sector will regret.”

The University Alliance agreed, and said following the Scottish model would take longer but provide a “better and more sustainable system”.

Other sector bodies such as Universities UK, the Russell Group and MillionPlus did not submit views to the UCAS consultation.

The Association of Colleges told FE Week it submitted supportive comments in the consultation but said apprentices could be demotivated from achieving merits or distinctions if those ratings were not recognised in the points system.

Both UVAC and the University Alliance also raised concerns that grade bands such as merits or distinctions would not be recognised in the proposed UCAS system.

UCAS said the omission was necessary to “ensure fairness” across all four nations in the UK.

But the University Alliance said: “Applying a credit value (a means of quantifying and recognising learning whenever and wherever it is achieved) to all apprenticeships would provide a much more accurate and fairer basis for assigning UCAS tariff points and go some way towards negating the inherent disadvantages of using pass/fail grades in the UCAS tariff.

“We should be striving to reach the same situation in Scotland – where there is a credit value as well as a credit level attached to apprenticeships – in England, Wales and Northern Ireland too.

“This would require a concerted and joined-up effort across the three nations, but there are existing frameworks to build on and opportunities that could be exploited.”

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), which represents hundreds of apprenticeship training providers, said it supported the proposals.

Lindsay Conroy, head of apprenticeships at UCAS, said: “In response to sector calls to allocate UCAS tariff points to level 3 apprenticeships, we developed a model in line with existing tariff methodology and following input from over 60 organisations across the education and skills sector, including universities, apprenticeship providers, employers, schools and colleges.

“We recently invited public engagement on our proposal and received over 200 responses, which we are now reviewing. We will share this feedback with the sector, along with next steps, in due course.”

Writing in FE Week in May, Conroy said UCAS recognised the proposals were not a “silver bullet” but she hoped they would make pathways between apprenticeships and higher education “more visible”.

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