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Labour announces radical shake up of higher education admissions system

Ahead of A-Level results day tomorrow, Labour has today (Wednesday 14 August) announced plans to radically reform higher education admissions by scrapping university offers based on predicted grades and implementing a new fairer system of post-qualification admissions (“PQA”).

Under Labour’s plans, students will apply for their university or higher education place after receiving their results in A-Levels or other qualifications, instead of relying on an unreliable system of predicted grades that unfairly penalises disadvantaged students and those from minority backgrounds.

According to analysis carried out by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills in 2011, black students were the most likely to have their grades under-predicted. The Sutton Trust has warned that poorer students are more likely to have their grades under-predicted than their wealthier peers, making them less likely to apply to the most selective institutions. Research by UCL’s Institute of Education found that nearly one in four disadvantaged students who go on to achieve AAB or better in A-Level have predicted grades lower than their final results.

The party’s plans will also curb the sharp rise in unconditional offers and bring an end to the clearing process – which can be an incredibly stressful and worrying time for students. With students no longer applying to universities on the basis of their predicted grades, they will be able to make better, more accurate decisions and avoid the pressure to accept an unconditional offer. PQA is the norm across the world, and England’s reliance on predicted grades is an international outlier; England is the only country with over a million students where a pre-qualifications admissions system is used.

Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said “The higher education admissions system isn’t working for students, and radical action is needed to change that. Predicted grades are wrong in the vast majority of cases, and disadvantaged students in particular are losing out on opportunities on the basis of those inaccurate predictions. No one should be left out of our education system just because of their background, yet with grants scrapped and fees tripled, the system is now deeply unfair.

“A Labour government will deliver the reform that is needed, implementing a new system of post-qualification admissions by the end of our first term in office. We will put students at the heart of the system, making it fairer, more accurate, and a genuine vehicle for social justice.

“We will work with schools, colleges, and universities to design and implement the new system, and continue to develop our plans to make higher education genuinely accessible to all.”