Sally Weale cites Sutton Trust research on the university admission process in an article for the Guardian. 

Bright students from poorer backgrounds are more likely than their wealthier peers to be given predicted A-level grades lower than they actually achieve, putting them at a disadvantage in their university applications, according to a new report. Under the current university admissions system students make their applications based on A-level grades predicted by their teachers. If their predicted grades are low, they may end up applying for degree courses with lower entry requirements than those which they are capable of getting.

The report says teachers tend to over-predict A-level grades partly in response to growing pressure from parents who push for grades at the top end of expectations. Disadvantaged students are also over-predicted. Every year, however, as many as a thousand high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds are given under-predicted grades – potentially not only affecting the university and course they choose but also their future employment prospects.

The report by the Sutton Trust education charity says these students are at a further disadvantage because they may lack the information and guidance required in the university application process to make the best decisions for their future.


The Sutton Trust chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, said: “Access to leading universities has improved and they are working hard to attract a wider applicant pool. However, the brightest disadvantaged students, given their grades, are under-represented at leading universities. The admission process itself may be responsible for this.”

Recent figures published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) found that the most advantaged applicants are still six times more likely to attend “high tariff” or selective universities compared with the most disadvantaged.

“Though the UK’s admissions process is highly centralised, the process is still complex, time-consuming and requires young people to make potentially life-changing decisions far in advance of university entry,” the report states. “Many of the elements in this process may put students from poorer backgrounds at a disadvantage.”

Backing a move to a post-qualification application system so students only apply to university once they have their grades, Lampl said: “This does away with predicted grades. Having actual grades on application empowers the student. They can pick the right course at the right university with a high degree of certainty they are making the right choice.”


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