While most 18-year-olds currently apply for university well before they sit their exams, a study by the University and College Union (UCU) has concluded that applications should only be made after students receive their results.
The report says the change would mean the end of unconditional offers - guaranteed university places given prior to final exams - and to the ‘clearing’ process that sees students who were not given places matched with courses that have vacancies.
Through consultation with universities and unions, the UCU has outlined a model for higher education applications which moves the application process to start in August, rather than the preceding January as it currently is for most applicants - with a new ‘expression of interest’ phase where students can write to universities to understand their requirements taking its place.
It also moves the start of the academic year from September to November to accommodate these changes.
Liz Leek, vice principal for curriculum at Barnsley College, called the proposals ‘very tempting’ but said it could be dangerous to leave too long a gap between students taking exams and going to university.
“It takes all the guesswork, predicted offers and issues around unconditional offers out of the picture,” Liz said. “It would mean that students in the second year of their course could concentrate on their final assessments or exams without having to take time out to complete their UCAS forms.
“However, it could, without proper resourcing, disadvantage students who don’t have the financial backing to support a gap year.
“However, if the Higher Education Institutions were to move to an application process that was significantly quicker, easier to navigate and gave everybody the chance to apply and start their course by October then it could provide a new way of doing things that allows every student to be recruited in a simplified manner and that is something that Barnsley College could easily support.”
A report published last month by university applications system UCAS stated one in three 18-year-olds receive an unconditional offer, which takes into account exam results and interviews and gives a firm place before course grades are decided.
More than 60 per cent of these students achieve lower than their predicted grades.
UCU head of policy, Matt Waddup, said: “There is growing support for a shift to a system where students apply to university after they have received their results. This report sets out how that could work in practice.
“Such a move would not only be fairer for students, it would bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and the chaotic clearing process.”