Less than half of university applicants are confident that their predicted grades are an accurate reflection of the grades they would have received in this summer’s exams, according to a new report.
The research by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and YouthSight, which surveyed around 500 applicants to higher education, shows that only 46 per cent expect their predicted grades to reflect their final grade. Over a quarter (27 per cent) think their predicted grades are worse than their final grades would have been, while 13 per cent hold better predicted grades than they expected to achieve in their final exams and 14 per cent are unsure.
Need to know: Teachers to rank order pupils for GCSEs
Assessment: 'Disadvantaged students will lose out'
Coronavirus: Student fears over predicted grades
With predicted grades likely to inform estimated grades that students will receive following the cancellation of this summer’s exam diet because of coronavirus, HEPI says this is an area of concern for many applicants. The University and College Union has called for a guarantee from universities that students who decide to appeal their results or resit exams can hold their university place while they go through that process.
According to today’s report, the majority of applicants surveyed (53 per cent) feel the messaging they have received on coronavirus from the universities they have applied to has been clear. Only 28 per cent feel that has not been the case.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the confidence of applicants, the HEPI research implies – with almost a third (29 per cent) feeling less confident that they will get a place at their chosen university, compared with 20 per cent who feel more confident. For the majority (79 per cent) of applicants, the pandemic has not had any impact on which university will be their first choice.
Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: “On admissions, it is clear applicants need greater certainty about what will happen to their university places. It is essential this group, who have already lost out on the end of their school experience, are not disadvantaged from getting into the university of their choice. The data shows this is a concern for a significant minority of applicants.”
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said university applicants were already suffering from a turbulent end to their current stage of education and needed support as they move on to university. “It is not business as usual at the moment and it is unlikely that everything will have returned to normal by the start of the new academic year. We need to provide support and safety nets so students are not disadvantaged by the coronavirus crisis. We want guarantees from universities that students who decide to appeal their results or resit exams can hold their university place while they go through that process.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "This anxiety is understandable in the context of such huge upheaval but we would reassure them their teachers know them well and the process of centre-assessment being used this year will be as fair as possible."
A Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: "Decisions, including those concerning admissions, must continue to be made fairly, consistently and in the best interests of students. UUK has confidence in the way A levels will be awarded this year and will support Ofqual as they continue to develop their precise methodology.
"Students can be reassured that universities will be flexible in taking an applicant's context into account as part of the admissions process. No student should feel rushed into a decision at what is already a difficult time for them."