A report by Dr Steven Jones, University of Manchester, on what students from different social backgrounds put in their UCAS statements.
- UCAS should consider whether the personal statement, in its current form, is an appropriate and fair indicator of applicants’ potential.
- The personal statement should be restructured. Instead of inviting a ‘free response’, a limit should be placed on the number of different activities and experiences that applicants may cite.
- Universities should be more transparent about how they use personal statements. Young people’s educational background should be taken into account, and applicants judged according to the academic and extracurricular opportunities available to them.
- Schools and colleges individually or collectively should provide practical support to students to help them through the university admissions process. Good advice, information and guidance are particularly needed in state schools, and from a much earlier stage.
- Applicants should be asked to reflect on which attributes they would bring to a course or university, rather than simply listing their previous achievements.
- With concerns being raised that pre-written personal statements are now ‘for sale’ to UK applicants, universities should carefully monitor the extent to which the increase in private sector consultants distorts the HE admissions process.
- Opportunities for state school students to gain appropriate internships and work experience – such as those offered by the Pathways to Law and the PRIME programmes, both of which the Sutton Trust supports – should be more common. All the professions should introduce programmes provide systematic support for young people from non-privileged backgrounds to access internships and high quality work experience