'Hit and hope' clearing faces axe

4th September 1998 at 01:00
CLEARING looks set to be scrapped as universities prepare to consult on radical plans to reshape the much-criticised admissions system, writes Nicolas Barnard.

Vice-chancellors, schools and exam boards are close to reaching agreement on changes which would allow students to apply for university after they receive their A-level or GNVQ results, instead of the current "hit and hope" system where they apply before.

It is likely to mean A-levels coming out at the start of August, up to three weeks earlier than at present. Exams could be moved forward, or the start of the university year moved back.

New technology being developed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, allowing applications by e-mail, will also help speed the process.

Universities could accept or reject students on the basis of results rather than teachers' predictions, while students would not waste time applying for courses for which they have little chance of making the grade. It would also mean an end to clearing for those with disappointing results.

Students would have to research their options in advance, but could take longer than the autumn term to do so - at present applications must be lodged between September and December.

Courses requiring interviews would say so in their prospectuses - these could take place in advance with students notified whether or not it was worth applying once they got their grades.

A consultation paper is expected in the autumn. But co-ordinating such complex changes means they are unlikely to be introduced quickly.

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