Students’ university and college offers could soon be based on their actual grades, rather than teachers’ predictions, under plans to be published by the admissions service.

Two radical new options for reform are set to be unveiled by UCAS in the coming weeks. Both would have far-reaching impact and better support students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are often under-predicted and less likely to apply to selective universities.

Under a post-qualification offers model, all students, including those on technical and vocational routes, would receive offers from their chosen universities and colleges on the same day, after getting their final qualification results in the summer. This means students would not be giving up a potential place until their grades were known, and would retain the long selection window in the prior months, which allows time to support students with disabilities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A post-qualification application model will be put up for discussion, which sees all students apply and receive offers after receiving their qualification results. To allow sufficient time for support from teachers, as well as applications to be submitted, assessed, and offers made and accepted, university term would need to begin in January.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said: ‘Now is the time to take a serious look at reforming the admissions timetable, which we have been doing over the last few months with universities, colleges, students, and schools. There are two options for reform that could work practically and aim to improve fairness for students, as well as eradicate problems for applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds that have become ingrained into the current admissions process.

‘It is absolutely crucial though that we limit any unintended consequences of such major change. UCAS is ready to innovate and we look forward to sharing full details in the coming weeks, and working with colleagues from across the education sector in the UK to develop these ideas further.’

John Cope, UCAS’ Director of Strategy, Policy, and Public Affairs said: ‘Supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds is core to UCAS’ charitable mission – they must be front and centre of our thinking to reforming admissions. What happened on results day this year means concerns around predicted grades need to be addressed.

‘Access to impartial, high-quality information, advice, and personalised support during the months when students are considering their options is essential to level up opportunity, which is why consideration must be given to reforming admissions, so life-changing decisions are made on the certainty of actual exam results, not predictions.’

Full details on the two models being proposed and how UCAS will collect and review feedback on them will be published in the coming weeks.

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