Sutton Trust responds to government consultation on university admissions reform.

Today the Sutton Trust publishes a new briefing by Professor Graeme Atherton. The report finds that the UK is an international outlier in having a pre-qualification university application system. Of the 31 countries examined, 11 had a PQA system and 20 a PQO system.

The research brief is published at the same time as the Trust’s response to the government’s consultation on university admissions. They are seeking views on two models:

    • The first is a system of post-qualification applications (PQA), where young people apply to university after they receive their grades. Results day would be moved forward, and university term starting dates would be moved back to the first week of October.
    • The second model is post-qualification offers (PQO), with applications made during term-time (as now), but offers are only made after results day.

The Trust favours a system of PQA, if logistical challenges around timing and student support can be overcome. In their response they cite previous Sutton Trust research by UCL on the inaccuracy of predicted grades and the underprediction of many high attaining, disadvantaged young people. As well as improving transparency, the Trust believes that a PQA system could benefit young people by enabling them to make an informed choice on their university options with their grades in hand.

However, a change to PQA would be the most significant university admissions reform in decades. The Trust highlights that it will need to be implemented carefully and with the support of the school and higher education sectors to succeed. For example, exam and marking schedules would likely need to be compressed so that results day could take place before schools close for the summer so that students have the support they need to make informed applications.

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