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13 NOV 2020
In the past few days, UCAS (the main operator of the UK university application process) has made public statements about a potential shake-up of the UK university application process, with an intention of eliminating the use of predicted grades as part of university applications.
Currently, UK university applications are based on predicted grades, which are used for submission to UCAS in January (October for Oxbridge or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry), with students receiving conditional offers from universities from January to March. However, it is not until May and June when the final A Level exams are taken, with results coming out in Mid-August.
The predicted grades used in the January (and October) applications are generated by the schools. These professional judgements are based on the past performance of the student in Level 2 and Level 3 examinations, as well as any other internal school assessments. They should be aspirational, but achievable. Teachers are encouraged not to inflate grades, so as to protect students from disappointment when their actual results come out and they miss out on any provisional offers.
However, the predicted grade method has been criticised in recent years, with UCAS now considering the method overly subjective, unreliable and overly harsh to disadvantaged students. Instead, they hope to use a new kind of post-qualification application model - where students would either receive university offers or apply to university after receiving their A-level grades.
UCAS has proposed two alternative methods by which this may be able to be done.
The first is a complete overhaul of the university application process and university calendar year. Such a change would see the beginning of the university academic year shifted to January, and university applications being due shortly after the release of results in August. Thus, students would be able to apply knowing their real grades, and be best placed to make their decision. However, this move would indeed be a sweeping and drastic change, and would mean that students are waiting up to five months in-between the finish of school and the beginning of university.
A second option designed by UCAS proposes that the application timeline continues in its current form, but that offers are only made to students once they have received their results in August. This would keep the university application process largely in-tact, except for the fact that students will have less time to make their arrangements for university. With such a measure in place, universities could in-practice push back their university application interviews and deadlines, given they will not need to have these sorted by early January for any provisional offers.
UCAS says it will publish new information about the options over the next few weeks. Keep checking our blog homepage for further announcements.
Despite the prospect of change, students planning to apply to UK universities over the next few years should not be too worried. UCAS cannot implement any of these changes on its own, and will have to work with schools, universities, government authorities and many others to make any change happen. There is still a strong possibility that no changes will be made, and even if changes were made, it will take several years to implement such a change.
In terms of your chances of admission to a top UK university, these changes also mean very little. Students will still need to have exceptional grades, thoughtful personal statements, great extracurriculars, outstanding interviews and organisational skills.
On this front, Crimson’s expert teams of tutors, mentors and strategists help students gain admission to the UK’s top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. This year alone over 40 Crimson students were accepted to Oxford or Cambridge - at double the average admission rate! Check out our student success page to find more Q&As and case studies about our successful Crimson students.