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Key points from the UCAS Admissions Process Review consultation

November 17, 2011

I’ve reviewed UCAS’ Admissions Process Review (APR) consultation.

Here are the key points, from a corporate information systems (CIS) perspective:

–      Post-results system proposed, with three application windows.  Clearing to be replaced.  

–      Cost for HEIs of current system of admissions is £26m, with an estimated 9.3m transactions including taking calls, chasing applicants etc. (p17) 

–      Synergy with Student Loans Company proposed and “other external agencies” (pg11) and UKBA (p27) to reduce data burden. For example it could mean that fee status checks could take place centrally rather than by each HEI (p28). An upgrade to the UCAS platform may mean that applications for part-time study could be supported (p28).

–      Surprisingly there is no mention of how this initiative links to the Key Information Set (KIS) and KIS data.

–      Proposal to involve applicants early on, to enable them to make more informed choices.  Applicants to use “myucas” portal to build up short lists of HEIs (p32).  The system would push out information about open days and help build a relationship between applicant and HEIs. This should lead to better decision-making from applicants, and give HEIs early indication of interest and enable them to target their marketing (p41).

–      A level exams would have to start 3 weeks earlier than currently with results to be available by early July/end of school term. All HEIs will need to start their terms in early October (p31).  UCAS acknowledge that this may be difficult for some disciplines such as nursing.

–      Proposal that “A post-results system would shift the bulk of admissions processing to a period of six weeks between late July and early September; typically during the summer holiday period. It would also push activity in respect of accommodation and student finance into the period between late August, when HEIs begin to make offers, and the beginning of term. However, as the proposed post-results process significantly reduces the overall number of applications, we believe the change is workable.   We understand there would be particular pressure on those HEIs and courses which interview applicants. This activity would either need to take place over the July-August period or an exception made to allow it to take place before the final application date. Initial discussions with such HEIs suggest that, with planning, it is possible to complete interviewing during the July-August period”. (p43) 
Is this workable – are academics likely to be around to interview during these two summer months?  And more generally what are the views on the concentration of activity for admissions staff?

–      Timetable for changes: “We therefore believe that the earliest implementation date for a post-results admissions system is for entry to higher education in 2016, that is, for students starting Year 12 in England and Wales, S5 in Scotland and Year 13 in Northern Ireland in September 2014” (p44)

–      UCAS will be making enhancements to admissions system in advance of a possible move to post-results system.  These are outlined from p44 onwards.
For example “UCAS is already working with the Student Loans Company (SLC) and with the Student Awards Agency for Scotland to deliver an improved application portal for 2014 year of entry”. (p46)   They add, “We believe the changes we have identified can be introduced safely for 2014 year of entry. They rely on the following assumptions: UCAS develops a new technology platform and HEIs move to paperless or ‘paperlite’ management of admissions”.

–      A useful overview and timeline of the implementation plan is available on p53.

–      The Admissions Process Review (APR) consultation is not a technical consultation.  This will follow if the proposals in this consultation are accepted. (pg6)

It’s pleasing to note that UCISA CISG’s involvement in the initial review is acknowledged (p5, p12). 

UCAS plan to hold consultation events. These are likely to be in January.

UCISA will respond to the consultation.  I’ll be writing a draft in early December, which will be circulated to the UCISA CIS Group and others for comment. If you have any thoughts on the proposals before then, I’d be interested to hear them.

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