Chaos at UK Universities After U-Turn

Tuesday, 18 Aug 2020

Chaos at UK Universities After U-Turn

Universities in England have been plunged into admissions “chaos” following government’s late U-turn on how A-levels were graded, with some already at full capacity for new students.

An estimated 40% of results released last week were downgraded by a controversial algorithm. Following substantial criticism, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has since backtracked to allow results to be based on teachers’ predictions.

Students who were awarded higher grades by the algorithm are permitted to keep them, but many will now see their grades improved. Because of this, many will now be eligible for places they narrowly missed out on and university admissions teams will have plenty of work to do. The prospect of more admissions will surely make social distancing even more difficult.

The University of Oxford, which accepted more than 300 students who missed their offers because of the algorithm is now facing “significant capacity constraints” and according to one staff member the decision will push “massively overstretched” staff to their “absolute limits”.

Aside from students who thought they had missed out on a university place altogether, there are also questions over whether students who missed out on their first-choice university and subsequently accepted an offer from their second choice will now be able to switch.

Mr Williamson says students who accepted their alternative choice offer could contact their original university to see if they can have a discussion.

Universities are legally obliged to honour their offers, but some are “absolutely at capacity” and Bristol University confirmed in a tweet that some students may have to defer for a year if they have applied for courses such as medicine that have an externally determined cap. 

With many now wondering how universities may cope with a surge in admissions in 2021, Mr Williamson has said that a university task force will look at how capacity can be expanded and highlights the “steep decline” in the number of students arriving from EU nations. 

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