Should universities switch to only offering places based on actual rather than predicted grades?
Dr Graeme Atherton, director of the National Education Opportunities Network and co-author of the report “Post-qualification application: a student-centred model”, says YES.
Going to university is the biggest decision that most young people face. They deserve a university admissions system that helps them make this decision properly. We are the only country in the world where university places are offered on the basis of predicted grades, and more than 80 per cent of these predictions are wrong.
A system whereby students apply on actual grades will be fairer, lessen teaching workloads, and reduce the number of students dropping out before they finish their degrees. By applying for university later, students will have more time to really think through their options, and when they know their results, they’ll be more likely to make the right choice of course for them. It will also stop some universities making unconditional no-grade offers to some students, as they currently do.
Now is the time to change this outdated system and give all students a fair chance of a university education.
Mo Lovatt, lecturer in Cultural and Creative Industries and co-chair of The Great Debate, says NO.
This proposal amounts to little more than tinkering around the edges, trying to find a technical quick-fix to making higher education “fairer”. It highlights the problem with universities today.
We’ve become obsessed with targets and grades, and instrumentalised education to the point that we’ve forgotten its core purpose: to provide students with the intellectual fuel that drives them to ask, what’s possible?
Shaking up the timetable would give universities less time to consider applications, and moving the start date back to November would leave students from disadvantaged backgrounds having to survive for longer without the Bank of Mum and Dad.
But, worse still, it reinforces the idea that grades are all-important, that the destination matters more than the journey. We need to refocus not on results but on intellectual curiosity and the joy of knowledge. This will leave students far better placed to impress in exams, in university interviews, and in their life beyond.