Exploring the government’s Post-Qualification Admissions (PQA) consultation proposals

We will be submitting a summary response to the Government’s consultation on Post-Qualification Admissions (PQA) reform. This consultation is an initial exploration of how the system of university admissions might be reformed so that learners complete the application process for university (or an alternative provider of higher education) once they’ve received their Level 3 results.

Currently, the system takes predicted grades into account. The challenges of learners applying to university with predicted grades have been well-documented, for example, by Gill Wyness (2016) whose found high levels of inaccuracy in A Level predictions that had a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged students.  

A key issue for awarding organisations to grapple with in this consultation is the impact that the proposals on PQA will have on results days. More time needs to be found in the summer to deliver PQA but the consultation document suggests that it would not be appropriate for university term times to be pushed back later than a November start (an early October start is proposed, which isn’t really later than the current late September/early October start). That means, if learners are to apply to university with known results, Level 3 results days will inevitably have to move earlier to make time for the application process. In the two models discussed in the consultation document, the suggested results day is as early as late July.  We know that there is little give in marking and moderation timelines for many AOs working to existing results days so it will be a significant challenge if we are required to work to a tighter schedule. The consultation document states that the government is ‘exploring different options on how to move results days earlier, with our preference being to compress the exam timetable, the marking period and the requirement for UCAS to receive results data well in advance of results day. Other options could include exams being held earlier but the feasibility and impact of this is something we want to explore in this consultation and through wider engagement (p.18).’

The consultation presents two models of PQA for discussion (one is a system of ‘post-qualification offers’) and asks respondents to outline any other approaches that might be effective. Model 1 is a system of PQA that pushes the entire applications process back until after a learner has their results. This means that learners will be completing the application process after their examinations, which will require teachers/tutors to potentially work outside of their usual terms and conditions, potentially beyond the end of the school/college year. Otherwise, learners may not receive the support that they require to complete their applications. Model 2 is a post-qualification offers system. This is where the learner applies to university in January, having their application assessed and receiving offers after they receive their examination results. A key benefit of this system is that learners can receive guidance and support on the applications process through their school or college to a more typical timetable. Their application will remain in the system and will be reviewed once exam results are available. UCAS has developed their own proposed model of how PQA might work that is similar to this post-qualification offers model but most of the work is done before exam results are issued – universities assess the applications and identify clear rejections, waiting until after exam results are issued before confirming offers. You can find information about their approach here.

We have created a short survey to find out your views on PQA and the impact it could have on your organisation. This will take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete and you only need to answer the questions you feel able to. The survey closes on 27 April and we will share a draft summary consultation response for comment via QualsMatter on 30 April.

The consultation closes on 13 May. Please do submit your own response if you’re able to and feel that these proposals could affect your organisation.