Reps' Monthly Higher Education Update
This is a monthly update for our Reps on what's going on in the Higher Education sector. In this month's newsletter, we take a look at what happened in July. The results to this year’s National Student Survey came out – how did Coventry do? Should A-Level students apply for places on university courses before or after they get their exam results? Social Mobility Commission released a new report about schoolchildren’s access to extracurricular activities – why students' unions are paying attention to its conclusions?
University applications – before or after Results Day?
Universities UK has started a review on when to hold the period of applications for places on university courses.
At the moment, A-Level students apply for university courses before they sit their final exams. Universities receive students’ predicted grades and some ask students to attend interviews before making offers.
But Universities UK is asking whether it would be fairer to open the application system after students have sat their exams and received their final results.
This comes at a time when the number of unconditional offers to university has increased, something for which universities have been criticised. In the competitive market of higher education, more universities are using unconditional offers to attract prospective students. By giving students unconditional offers, meaning that they are entitled to a place on a course regardless of the grades they get in their exams, universities can guarantee that they will have a larger number of students coming to study there. With most students paying at least £9,000 per year’s tuition, a high turnout can work out very well for a university’s finances.
Letting students apply after they finish their exams might work out for those who do better than expected – if a student gets better grades than the ones they were predicted to get, they will be able to apply to study at universities that are higher in the league tables. But, if a student does badly in their exams and comes out with poor grades, they would have only those poor grades with which to find a place at university, which might make things much harder for them.
Think back to when you were in secondary school, at college or at sixth form. Would you rather apply you applied university before you sat your A-Levels, or afterward?
'An Unequal Playing Field'
The Social Mobility Commission has published a report on the state of schoolchildren's access to extracurricular activities.
The report indicates that the household income of their family, the area in which they live and the strength of the school that they attend influence schoolchildren’s access to extracurricular activities. Children from more affluent backgrounds are more likely to be able to learn to play musical instruments or perform in an orchestra, act on stage and play in competitive sports teams. For poorer children, or children living in poorer areas, schools and local governments may not have the resources or facilities to provide these sorts of activities. Where opportunities do exist, some children may choose not to participate as they do not think that they would feel welcome or get on with the other children.
Why does this matter for university students? Students’ unions are aware that young people who enrol at universities may have had very different experiences and opportunities when they were at school. They might be reluctant to try new activities, they might not know how to get involved or they might not be able to afford it.
Being able to play music and sport, engage in art and design, act, sing, learn foreign languages, debate and so on are not just good things in themselves, but also teach children valuable skills that will be useful later in life. Employers look for people who are good at solving problems, paying attention to detail, following instructions and working in teams – all skills that are nurtured in extracurricular activities, whether in school or at university. So, if some students don’t have these opportunities to develop their skills, they might find it harder to get the jobs they want later in life, not to mention missing out on chances to develop as individuals.
HE news in brief
- Lancaster University is recovering from a huge data breach in which the names and addresses of students were acquired by fraudsters. Someone has been arrested!
- Warwick University has announced that it would comply with all the recommendations of a lawyer after an inquiry into its handling of a “rape chat” scandal over the last year.
- Swansea University has sacked its Vice-Chancellor over allegations of misconduct; Professor Richard Davies has described a “climate of fear” at the University that sacked him
- Government statistics released this month indicate that, on average, UK university graduates earn about 20% more than those who did not go to university
- Applications from Chinese students to study at UK universities have increased by 30%, UCAS has stated