• Hannah Charles

The End of Predicted Grades?

For years, the university admission system has been the same however it has been reported a switch to ‘post-qualification admissions’ is to be considered. After the difficulties with A Level results this year, the Education Secretary has announced plans to reform the admissions system whereby university applications will now be delayed and students will now be offered university places only after getting their A-level results.


Currently most students in the UK apply for university places based on predicted grades that are made by teachers however there has been growing pressure for university admissions to change in recent years. It has been reported that currently using predicted grades limits the aspirations of some students before they know what they actually can achieve while the new system would "remove the unfairness" that some students face due to inaccurate predicted grades. In 2019, nearly four out of five 18-year-olds in the UK had their grades over-predicted however disadvantaged students were more likely to have their grades under-predicted. Research from UCL's Institute of Education showed almost a quarter of high-ability applicants from lower-income households had their results under-predicted between 2013 and 2015 which highlights this divide. This often means they end up applying for courses below their ability and more likely to be ‘under-matched’ compared to their advantaged peers; consequently impacting opportunities available to them. Students who are under-matched to universities are then more likely to drop out of university, get a lower class degree and earn less in employment showing the long term impacts this may have.


Although a post-qualification admissions system where students are only given offers once they have their results would not be a “silver bullet” for university access, moving away from predicted grades could “help level the playing field” for students from less advantaged backgrounds it has been reported. Education secretary Gavin Williamson states “The current admissions system is letting down the brightest pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. By using predicted grades it is limiting the aspirations of students before they know what they can achieve”.


So what does this mean for young people planning or starting university? Although these changes will not affect university applications for 2021, a study by the Sutton Trust found that 66 per cent of just over 500 students surveyed in September felt a post-qualification approach would be fairer than the current system of predicted grades, with 30 per cent saying it would be “much fairer” showing the growing desire for a change to be made.


The Hub’s kids and youth tracker this year will include a dive into what young people think of their future prospects and thoughts on education. If you’re interested in hearing more about what they think the future holds for them, get in touch with Helen (helen@discoveryres.co.uk) or Afra (afra@discoveryres.co.uk).