UCAS to Scrap Personal Statements from Next Year | This Week in Admissions News

20/01/20235 minute read
UCAS to Scrap Personal Statements from Next Year | This Week in Admissions News
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, UCAS announced that it will be scrapping the long personal statement as part of its wider reforms to admissions testing, while Harvard Medical School pulled out of the US News rankings. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!

UCAS to Scrap Personal Statements from Next Year

Applications to Cambridge are set to change from the 2024 admissions cycle as UCAS has announced they will be scrapping the personal statement. The 4,000-character essay will be scrapped and replaced with a series of questions about the higher education course a student is applying for. The change comes amid claims that the personal statements favour middle-class students who may have better access to “high-quality advice and guidance”, according to Ucas, the Evening Standard reported.

The structured questions aim to “bring focus and clarity for students, reducing the need for support”. Kim Eccleston, head of strategy and reform at Ucas, said: “We believe this will create a more supportive framework, which in turn will help guide students through their responses by removing the guesswork, as well as capturing the information universities and colleges have told us they really need to know from applicants when it comes to offer-making.”

Cambridge had announced earlier in the year that they will be making some changes to their admissions testing as they were operationally unsustainable and “to deliver them affordably to students and higher education institutions.” The elite university has seen a drop in enrollment as well as applications over the last couple of years, owing to the Covid pandemic as well as an economic downturn in the UK.

Here are the changes we can expect in the UCAS from the 2024/25 admissions cycle:

  • The 4,000-character personal statement essay will be scrapped and replaced with a series of questions about the higher education course a student is applying for
  • Several university admissions exams, including BMAT (medicine), ENGAA (engineering), NSAA (natural sciences) and TMUA (mathematical skills) tests, will be discontinued
  • The seven UK medical schools that use BMAT tests as part of their admissions process (Brighton and Sussex, Imperial, Lancaster, UCL, Cambridge, Leeds and Oxford) as well as medical and healthcare schools in other countries will put alternative arrangements in place

It should be interesting to see how the spread of AI will affect the college essay and personal statements. All of these changes are set to take effect from the 2024 admissions cycle - the 2023 cycle will continue as before. 

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. Harvard Medical School announced it will no longer submit data to U.S. News & World Report for its “best medical schools” rankings. The decision was made due to concerns that the rankings create incentives for institutions to report inaccurate data and that the suitability of a medical school for a student is too complex to be reflected in a ranked list. This move follows the withdrawal of Harvard and Yale law schools (among other top schools) from the rankings in November, and is a reflection of the growing trend of elite institutions devaluing the importance of these rankings, which have traditionally played a significant role in shaping the decisions of prospective students.
  2. According to Times Higher Education, the Biden administration is planning to publish a list of programs/degrees that are considered to have low financial value for students. However, there is currently a lack of consensus on how to determine the economic worth of these programs. Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, managing director of policy and research at Higher Learning Advocates, suggests that the department should consider metrics such as job opportunities for graduates and whether they possess the skills sought by employers when determining the list of programs.
  3. The PIE News writes on a new report from the Conference Board of Canada that highlights the need for a comprehensive strategy for the immigration and settlement of international students. The report states that despite the priority of Canadian stakeholders to retain international students after their studies, the government currently lacks a plan to effectively coordinate the granting of permits and selection of international students for immigration. The current lack of strategy creates friction for international students, and this problem could worsen as the growth in international student enrollment surpasses the planned increase in permanent immigration.
  4. English-language skills in China have slipped, according to a global proficiency ranking, especially among young Chinese, and some are blaming rising nationalism. The 2022 English Proficiency Index ranked China at 62, a low proficiency nation, down from a moderate proficiency ranking of 49 in 2021 and 38 in 2020. China lagged behind Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and Hong Kong, the latter of which has remained a high proficiency economy over the past three years. According to the report, education reforms in China over the past few years have led to a reduction in the time spent in schools teaching and speaking English.