UK Uni Admissions Return to ‘More Predictable’ Cycle, Says UCAS Chief | This Week in Admissions News

19 AUG 2022

The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week, following a two-year pandemic hiatus, UK university admissions should resume a "more predictable" cycle this summer as college students await their A-level results. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!


UK University Admissions to Return to ‘More Predictable’ Cycle, Says UCAS Chief

Following a two-year pandemic hiatus, UK university admissions is expected to resume a "more predictable" cycle this summer as college students await their A-level results.

According to UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant, a near-record number of students in England and Wales will receive their first choice university places this week when A-level results are announced.

Since formal exams are returning for the first time after the pandemic, UCAS's comment offers reassurance to students as they anticipate lower marks with educators working to curb grade inflation in recent years.

In the wake of the pandemic, teacher assessment replaced formal school exams, enabling more students to achieve top grades. With the return of exams this year, it is expected that the level of attainment will fall.

According to Russell Group, this round of admissions will be competitive. “Our universities will be working hard to give as many people the opportunity to study with them as they can, while maintaining a high-quality experience for students,” they shared.

With top university admissions becoming more competitive, there is concern that many young people could miss out on their top choice of institution as less top grades will be awarded this year.

“We’re expecting the vast majority of students to wake up and have their first choice university or college . . . It will be a record or near record, certainly more than a normal year,” Merchant shared. She reassured that the entry cycle is back to being "more predictable" this summer.

According to UCAS, record numbers of students applied to university this year, with near-record numbers holding offers at institutions requiring the highest grades.

Despite this, the number of offers declined in the most competitive courses, such as medicine and dentistry. Approximately 15.6% of applications received an offer, down from 20.4% in 2021, while the figure for higher-tariff providers fell from 60.5% to 55.1%.

Regardless, some education experts have warned that lower overall results will result in more students failing to earn their first-choice offers.

According to Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, 40,000 students may miss out on their top choice. He estimated 35 percent of applicants would receive an A* or A grade this year, compared with 44.8% in 2021, basing his prediction on exams regulator Ofqual's plans to set grade distribution at a midpoint between last year's and that from 2019.

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. The Wall Street Journal reports Harvard Business School (HBS) is rolling out a new need-based scholarship program that will cover the cost of full tuition and fees for roughly 10% of its MBA candidates, a move that's considered "rare" as most other highly ranked MBA programs employ merit-based aid more often than need-based funding. Previously, the article notes, HBS gave full, need-based scholarships to only about 2% of its students. HBS officials say they will use a formula that considers students’ current income, assets, undergraduate debt and information about their socioeconomic background to determine who gets a full scholarship.
  2. In a segment with the former president of two HBCUs, NPR reports some Historically Black Colleges and Universities have seen "a significant rise in applications" which, to some, "could be due to more funding, celebrity students, or famous HBCU grads" — but per "informal conversations" with Black students and their families, the biggest draw is that "HBCUs are a safe and nurturing space to learn in a time of increasing anti-Black racism."
  3. The Times writes private school students in the UK are "turning their backs on Oxbridge" as they increasingly feel "disillusioned at their chances of being accepted at Oxford and Cambridge" due to efforts to accept more state school students instead. According to an unnamed source at Eton College, "Those who go to the US are typically attracted by the breadth of the study programmes and the international perspective, their top-quality sports programmes." Further, scholarship opportunities appeal and students reportedly "'want more for their money'" at US unis where in-person learning has fully resumed.
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