From education to employment

Universities UK publishes Fair Admissions Code of Practice

Professor Quintin McKellar CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire

The new Fair Admissions Code of Practice sets the behaviours for universities to improve fairness and transparency in the admissions system while maintaining high academic standards.

The self-regulatory code, which builds on the findings of the Fair Admissions Review, has been developed by Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE in consultation with applicants, school and college leaders, university admissions teams, and UCAS.

By signing up to the code on behalf of their institutions, university and colleges leaders agree to abide by a series of behaviours including:

  • Not making ‘conditional unconditional’ offers whereby an offer becomes unconditional if the applicant makes that university their firm choice.
  • Only using unconditional offers in limited circumstances, such as when qualifications are already held, or admissions decisions are informed by auditions or interviews.
  • Ensuring admissions policies are always clear and accessible so they can be easily understood by applicants and their advisers, including information on how decisions are made, and whether entry requirements might change depending on an individual’s circumstances.

Professor Quintin McKellar CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, Universities UK’s Vice-President for England and Northern Ireland, and Chair of the Fair Admissions Review, said:

“The Fair Admissions Code of Practice allows universities and colleges to make a public commitment to prioritise applicants’ interests above all else. The code behaviours build on the fairness and transparency in the admissions system, support student choice and avoid putting any unnecessary pressure on applicants.

“All applicants must be able to make informed decisions based on clear evidence of their strengths, capability and potential, and on comprehensive and consistent information about how courses will meet their expectations, as future students and in their lives beyond graduation.”

Minister for Higher and Further Education Michelle Donelan said:

These changes really help to put university applicants’ needs first. Prospective students should expect clarity from the provider and the course about quality, transparency and fair access.

“I have long called for these much-needed changes to the admissions process such as increased transparency in advertising and also called out the use of conditional unconditional offers which only really benefit the university or college. This code highlights the undue pressure this places on applicants to make a decision which may not be in their best interests.

“The Office for Students is also introducing new minimum thresholds for drop-out rates and progression to graduate jobs, so that students will know with confidence that their course will open opportunities to good jobs.”

Clare Marchant, UCAS Chief Executive, said:

“Students’ best interests must be the at the forefront of every admissions decision that’s made. The Fair Admissions Code of Practice clearly sets out the high standards that students, their parents and teachers can expect from universities and colleges and ensures they can make informed choices about their future. As universities and colleges across the UK sign up to the Code, students can have renewed confidence in discovering and applying for the right course for them, and that their application will be considered fairly in a transparent process.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We welcome the publication of the Fair Admissions Code of Practice and in particular the absolute clarity with which it reinforces the message that the use of so-called ‘conditional unconditional offers’ is unacceptable. Indeed, the vast majority of unconditional offers are unnecessary and do not serve students’ best interests, as this code recognises. It is essential that students choose university courses which best suit their aspirations and ambitions, rather than because of short-term inducements which do not necessarily serve their long-term interests. The Code of Practice will help them to navigate the higher education admissions system and make properly informed decisions about the right course for them.”

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