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Elite universities disproportionately benefit from Coalition reforms

ByTom Wrench

Sep 30, 2014
courtesy of educationopportunities.co.uk

Top UK universities have benefited from changes to admissions policies which came into effect in August.

As of September 11, the number of students being accepted into Russell Group or higher achieving universities, such as Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick and Bristol, had increased four per cent on 2013 levels, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Meanwhile, universities with lower UCAS tariffs or grade requirements have been subject to a one per cent decrease in acceptances.

In April 2012, the UK Coalition government introduced a policy allowing all universities to admit an unlimited number of students with grades of at least ABB at A-level or equivalent from August 2014. The threshold had been previously set at AAB.

It was believed that this policy would allow more students to study at their university of choice, with admissions officers having greater discretionary powers, especially during the clearing process, following the release of exam results.

In August, the UK government also allowed academic institutions to admit 30 thousand additional students with grades lower than ABB.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Universities Minister, Greg Clark, defended the Coalition’s changes to the recruitment process: “It’s very much in the interests of every university to maintain a reputation for excellence […] There are very strong reasons for universities only to admit those students who are capable of a university education.”

“[…] I am convinced there are still places in the country where some really bright young people who could benefit massively from a university education so far haven’t had the chance to go.”

In spite of this, Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University acknowledged that it should not be assumed that achieving ABB at A-level would guarantee a place at a leading institution.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “universities’ reputations are at stake here. There’s a limit to the number of students with the lower grades they will be willing to accept.”

According to UCAS, the total UK university acceptances for 2014 stands at approximately five hundred thousand students; an increase of four per cent from last year, due in part to a 13 per cent increase of students from mainland Europe.

This year also saw at least 18 out of the 24 Russell Group institutions advertise places through the clearing process. The universities with the highest number of courses available included Glasgow, Liverpool and Leeds, with 394, 390 and 355 courses respectively.


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