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Fair admissions review: Major review of university admissions underway

School, college, student, university and UCAS leaders to review admissions.

A review of university admissions practices will ensure they are fair, transparent and operating in the best interests of students.

Universities UK is establishing the ‘Fair admissions review’ to:

  • Collect evidence on how admissions practices work and to identify the main challenges linked to admissions and offer-making practices including unconditional and contextual offers.
  • Review whether the 2004 Schwartz principles on fair admissions in higher education remain valid.
  • Recommend best practice in offer making and propose changes that will ensure that university admissions work in the best interests of applicants and are fit for purpose in a rapidly changing post-18 education environment.

The ‘Fair admissions review’ advisory group will consist of UCAS, school, college, student, and university representatives. Its recommendations, due in spring 2020, will be informed by best practice from across the UK.

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“This review will establish the evidence, best practice and inform the debate around university admissions. It will determine whether different types of offers operate in the best interests of students and are fair to all. Universities will continue to make their own decisions on offers, but the review aims to build greater levels of transparency, trust and public understanding in admissions practices.”

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said:

“We absolutely welcome the Universities UK review of admissions practices and look forward to working with the project advisory group to deliver meaningful recommendations. Students’ best interests must be the paramount consideration for universities and colleges when making offers. It’s essential that students are supported to make informed choices and the right decisions about their future.”

Beth Linklater, Assistant Principal, Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke, and Chair of UCAS’ Secondary Education Advisory Group, said:

“Choosing a university course is one of the biggest decisions many young people will make. This review is an excellent opportunity to see how university admissions can be improved so that all applicants are able to find the university place which is right for them.” 

UCU response to Universities UK admissions review: 

“An overhaul of university admissions is long overdue but should be informed by students and staff directly involved in the admissions process, the University and College Union (UCU) said today.

“The union was responding to an announcement from Universities UK that it is launching a new review into fair admissions. It said any review needed to be wide-reaching and listen to the growing calls for a move to a fairer system of post-qualification admissions.”

Acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said:

“A comprehensive overhaul of university admissions is long overdue, so it is good to see this issue getting more attention. However, the review panel has missed a trick by not including any staff directly involved in making offers, or any students who have recently been through the university admissions process. Any reform should be fully informed by the people who it will affect the most.

“There is growing support for a shift to a post-qualification admissions system, where students apply to university after they have received their results. Our research shows such a move would not only be fairer for students, it would bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and the chaotic clearing process.”

The chair of the ‘Fair admissions review’ advisory group is Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice-Chancellor & President, Ulster University.

Other members are:

  • Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor, Durham University;
  • Debra Gray, Principal, Grimsby Institute;
  • Professor David Green CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Worcester;
  • Caroline Hoddinott, Headteacher at Haybridge High School and Sixth Form;
  • Tracey Lancaster, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Resources), Leeds Beckett University;
  • Beth Linklater, Assistant Principal, Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke;
  • Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of St Andrews;
  • Clare Marchant, Chief Executive, UCAS;
  • Mike Nicholson, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach, University of Bath;
  • Professor Edward Peck; Vice-Chancellor, Nottingham Trent University;
  • Lee Sanders, Registrar and Secretary, University of Birmingham;
  • Holly Staynor, Policy Officer, NUS;
  • Professor Mary Stuart CBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Lincoln;
  • Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor & Principal, Canterbury Christ Church University;
  • Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor, Aberystwyth University;
  • Jo Wilson, Head of Sixth Form, The Pingle Academy, Derbyshire.

The review will be sensitive to the different contexts that higher education providers are operating in across different UK nations, and work to complement successful initiatives already underway in different parts of the UK.

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