Plans to radically overhaul university admissions to offer students places based on their actual exam results have been shelved.
The government had consulted on a move to post-qualification admissions, which would have seen students receive university offers once they had obtained their final grades.
Former education secretary Gavin Williamson said at the time that he wanted to “remove the unfairness” from the current system, in which pupils apply and are offered places based on predicted grades.
But universities minister Michelle Donelan confirmed today that the reforms have officially been shelved.
“While we are considering and implementing a range of reforms, after careful analysis of responses to the separate consultation on post-qualification admissions, we have decided not to proceed with this at this time.”
The government consulted on two potential models.
One would have involved both applications and offers being made after students receive their exam results, with results day moved to July and the higher education term moved to October.
The other would have involved applications being made before results, but offers made after results day.
The proposals prompted a mixed response. Research by the Sutton Trust in 2020 found that 66 per cent of students felt a post-qualification approach would be fairer than predicted grades.
A review by Universities UK backed a move to post-qualification admissions, but shot down a suggestion that the start of term for universities be moved to January to facilitate a later admissions process.
Sector wants to ‘focus on recovery’
Ofqual, the exams regulator, also warned that exam results could be delayed and students miss out on places if the government relied on slashing marking time to deliver its overhaul.
It said the reforms would rely on results for A-levels and other level 3 qualifications being released up to three weeks sooner than usual.
The DfE said responses to its consultation indicated the reform “would be a significant undertaking for both the HE and the school and college systems”.
“Many respondents” had pointed out the need for the sector to “focus on educational recovery and exam recovery as a priority, rather than wholesale system reform”.
Two thirds of consultation respondents were in favour of a change to PQA in principle, but 60 per cent of respondents felt the models proposed “would be either worse than, or no better than, current arrangements”.
“Whilst there is some support for post-qualification admissions, this is not strong enough to indicate that this is the right time for such a major upheaval, the DfE concluded.
The department said it would “continue to work with UCAS and sector bodies to improve transparency, reduce the use of unconditional offers, and reform the personal statement to improve fairness for applicants of all backgrounds”.
The government is due to shortly publish its response to the Augar review of post-18 education.
Among the proposals is the introduction of a minimum grade thresholds which could see students denied finance if they fail their English and maths GCSEs.