The impact of Covid-19 has been felt widely across the sector. Detailed below is a proposed 'fair admissions agreement' – a set of principles and behaviours that demonstrate how the sector places the student interest at the heart of admissions decision-making processes, recognising the additional pressures on students during this difficult and disruptive time.
While many aspects of this agreement are relevant to universities across the UK, this set of principles is designed to guide admissions behaviours among universities in England given the specific regulatory context within which they are operating.
Agreement on fair admissions practices for 2021/22 in England
Universities' admissions processes for 2021/22 home undergraduate recruitment must put the student interest first. This means universities must:
Abide by the UCAS terms of service
This includes recruiting all full-time home undergraduate applicants only through UCAS. As such, the type of offer, full conditions, subsequent offer or decision amendments, and Confirmation decisions must be transmitted to the applicant using Track in the first instance.
Abide by the updated principles on fair admissions
Universities are to continue as usual in ensuring admissions practices are fair and transparent, including through clearing. These updated principles, recommended by UUK's Fair Admissions Review, include ensuring that admissions processes truly deliver for the applicant.
Not engage in offer-making behaviour that would negatively impact student choice:
This includes not making:
- conditional unconditional offers, which risk pressuring students to make a decision which might not be in their best interest and have been prohibited by the Office for Students as part of the Z3 condition of registration;
- unconditional offers, except to: applicants who already hold their required grades; those applying to courses where admissions decisions have been informed by an interview, audition or additional application procedure (such as a submission of a portfolio or skills test); those requiring special consideration due to illness or disability, or those applying to a university with an established and longstanding policy regarding non-selective admission to undergraduate programmes;
- significant changes to entry requirements or offer making practices, or to offers made to applicants, since the final arrangements for 2021 summer assessments were announced by the Department for Education and Ofqual.
Not engage in other behaviours that might place undue pressure on applicants
This includes in relation to aspects of an offer communicated to applicants within or outside of UCAS that are tied to accommodation and other material and financial inducements such as bursary applications, discounted offer-making or similar schemes which unduly incentivise decision-making.
Be flexible in admissions decision-making by recognising applicants' contexts this year:
This includes accounting for the disruption and lost learning faced by some applicants, and the unique circumstances certain 'private candidates' are in.
Ensure applicants this year are not systematically disadvantaged
This includes being mindful that this year's results awarded via teacher assessment will have equal status to the grades awarded in other years and should be treated in this way by universities.
Continue to seek to deliver on targets to widen access
This includes towards targets to increase the proportion of new students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and other underrepresented groups.
Command public confidence in higher education admissions
This means universities upholding the highest standards of conduct to support stability at this time.