Ucas wants to reform the way students apply to university – shifting the process until after A-level results are in, and scrapping “Clearing”. Having been through the stress of applying to uni in 2006, I’m all in favour.
The changes proposed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) wouldn’t come into force until 2016, but would mean that instead of A-level students applying to universities by January, they’d do so in the summer after results day – based on actual, rather than predicted, grades.
In turn, this would mean a shift in school timetables, with exams starting earlier (perhaps even as early as Easter) so that results can be published in July. Plus, the changes would see students applying to just two universities, rather than the current five.
Knowledge is power
Ucas argues the current system favours those with ‘extra knowledge’, highlighting ‘an undesirable divide between applicants who receive effective advice and those who do not’.
But some oppose this view. I spoke to a sixth form tutor who is currently helping students through the process of applying to uni. She worries the new system would further disadvantage those who don’t have access to guidance at home, as there will be less time for them to consult with teachers on their application.
This is definitely a challenge, but I feel although students might have less time with teachers to perfect their application, they will have more time to spend on tracking down the right university for them.
Real, not estimated grades
If exams are brought forward, students will be losing at least two weeks’ study time. But they’ll be gaining back time that would have been spent earlier in the year labouring over the dreaded Ucas personal statement – no mean feat in itself.
To me, it seems logical to base university applications on real grades, not predicted ones. At the time of applying, I certainly wasn’t sure what grades I’d achieve by the end of the academic year. Plus, it’s been reported that fewer than 10% of applicants actually have all three grades predicted correctly. The new proposed system would benefit those who outperform their predicted grades, giving them the opportunity to apply to a better university.
One final bonus: the new system would negate the need for Clearing – a student’s last chance to grab a spare uni place, where they didn’t make the grades for their first or second choices. Even Ucas describes the process as ‘inefficient’ and ‘stressful’.
Do you think it makes more sense for students to apply to university with their final A-level grades in hand? Tell us what you think, along with your tales of applying to uni, or grappling with Clearing.