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Ucas abandons plans for system change

Plans by Ucas to introduce a post-qualifications admissions system for all UK students have been dropped because the compressed timescale involved posed "insurmountable obstacles".

The Scottish Qualifications Authority, School Leaders Scotland and the Scottish government had all raised concerns that Ucas's proposed timetable would cause a major upheaval and probably disadvantage Scottish applicants, particularly those from deprived backgrounds. All three welcomed the Ucas decision not to implement its proposal.

The PQA system would have meant exams being brought forward to early April and completed within four to five weeks instead of seven; marking time cut from eight to four weeks; and exam results would have been released in early July, at the start of the school holidays, leaving pupils unable to access vital support in making applications.

Ucas announced earlier this week it was dropping its plans because:

- different term dates and qualifications timetables across Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales posed insurmountable obstacles to agreeing a more compressed timescale for the admissions process;

- higher education institutions' initiatives to support disadvantaged applicants could be compromised;

- a post-results system might encourage "an undesirable focus on simple grade achievements in a sector that prides itself on a more rounded assessment of applicants' potential".

The proposals were prompted largely by concerns that the predicted grades of prospective students from elsewhere in the UK were often inaccurate. Since most Scottish pupils already have their Higher exam results when they apply, this was not such a problem in Scotland.

Ucas will press ahead with plans to overhaul the clearing system. The admissions service's report says it anticipates "the transformation of clearing from a last-minute pairing of unplaced applicants with unfilled courses to a fairer, managed and robust late application window catering for applicants who. want access to the service after they have received their results".

elizabeth.buie@tess.co.uk.

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