08 Apr 2009
I am chairing the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) annual admissions conference in Birmingham.
Amongst the concerns here is how the new 'adjustment period' will work out this summer. If you've not heard of this, don't worry. Not many people have caught up with it yet. But it could have an impact on admissions.
This summer, for the first time, students who get better exam results than they needed for their university offers will get a chance to trade-up to a different course if they wish to try to do so. There will be a narrow window, just after the A-level results are published in August, when they can seek an alternative university place without jeopardising the one they already hold. More details on the precise working can be found at the UCAS website.
However the concern is that most students, and possibly some universities, do not really understand how this system will work. Also there may, in fact, be very few places still available for applicants to attempt to 'trade up' to. That is because most universities, and especially the most selective institutions, will not be keeping any spare capacity for the 'adjustment period'. That is particularly true this year as the government made a late announcement reducing the amount of planned growth in student places for 2009/10.
The 'adjustment period' is meant to be a first step towards Post Qualifications Admissions (that is, dealing with admissions to university AFTER students get their results) but there is some anxiety about how it will work in practice.
If lots of students believe this will give them the chance to trade-up to Oxbridge or courses in medicine or law, they are - I fear - likely to be disappointed.