University Tips Blog
An image of a teacher looking at a computer with the text "update" on it

by Jon Cheek


posted on 25 Oct '21

A Higher Education Update (1 of 2)

By Jonathan Atkinson, Events Manager at the University of Liverpool and HELOA UK Chair

Until recently students have followed a wellworn path when researching their choices and applying to higher education. School, college and university support teams knew the cycle and each year enhanced our understanding and subsequent support.

Needless to say, this has not been our recent experience and it may be a while before we know what the new ‘normal’ looks like. To understand some of the changes and challenges here’s a (very) brief sector summary.

Higher education admissions changes

Applying to university has never been more popular and the trend only looks to increase with 700,000 applicants for entry in 2021 and UCAS forecasting that this could hit 1 million applicants by 2025.

Selective courses have had to be (and I believe will continue being) increasingly careful with their contractual offers as Teacher Assessed Grades and Centre Assessment Grades have not resulted in the variance of achievement that typical A-level exams resulted in.

Increased numbers of students attending their first-choice university also meant a smaller clearing cohort in 2021, with less students exploring other opportunities offered by institutions with spaces.

Preparing for the jump into higher education

Although many students may have found researching and preparing for higher education disrupted, universities have pulled together wide-ranging expertise from their teams to create new transition programmes.

Some programmes are for students with their university entry confirmed with course and support specifics and others are open and online. Either way, the student journey from first chat to first graduate job is sharply in focus. A quick google search will show you a broad offer, and the Office for Students also have some case studies too.

Outcomes and choice

Leading on from focusing on student success is how success is being defined. This is a contentious topic with many different answers depending on who you ask. Some regulators will insist that quality is based on quantifiable metrics that can correlate to increased salaries for graduates over the course of their careers. Others would argue that this creates tunnel vision on what higher education is worth and what it is for.

There are, and will remain, a huge number of benefits to going to university that improves a person’s quality of life and satisfaction, even if it did not result in a six-figure salary. The debate will continue, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘Augaresque’ headlines of, if not steps taken towards, £7,500 tuition fees for some courses emerge again in 2022.

Post-18 education but not as you know it

The sector itself is continuously changing and adapting to what students, society and the economy need and discussions seem to indicate a growth in post-18 options. Watch out for more accelerated (2 year) degrees, ideally more opportunities (increased numbers please) of degree apprenticeships and slightly further into the future, a teaching and funding model that supports lifelong learning, encouraging engagement with further and higher education over a person’s lifetime to develop relevant work-based skills.

Crystal ball gazing – so what is the future?

Looking to the year ahead, you would hope for a steadying of the sector, some reflection on our learnings and how best to bring together the two worlds of pre and post pandemic teaching and student success.

Depending on the political climate and who is in charge of education in the next 12 months, a debate on post qualification admissions (PQA) or offers (PQO) will be of huge interest to everyone involved in helping students make informed decisions about their futures.

Changes to systems and processes can result in better ways of working. I would caution against changing a system that is widely understood to work, albeit with needed improvements, for one which could bring a host of new and unknown challenges.

Where to go from here

The sector always changes; however consistency can always be found in the volumes of support and engagement on offer from your local university’s recruitment/ outreach teams (whichever title they fall under).

We’ll return to some trusted ways of providing information and we’ll discover new ways to provide ongoing support. If the sector interests you then keep in touch with your local recruitment and admissions teams, give yourself a weekly treat of reading Wonkhe, and for advisers always keep up to date with UCAS.

Higher Education Update (2 of 2)

By Alix Delany, Head of Admissions at the University of East Anglia

There is never a dull moment in education. In the past 18 months the higher education sector has been consulted on a wide range of issues, whether it is the future of technical qualifications, the outcomes of the Augar review, how qualifications should be assessed, post qualification admissions systems, degree apprenticeships, funding of subject areas, and widening access to higher education, including contextual admissions.

All of these complex subjects are intertwined, and the discussions around them will continue in the years ahead, as they impact and shape the sector for the next decade and beyond. This is of course against the backdrop of Covid-19, and how we ensure students entering higher education are supported both practically and emotionally.

Image of a teacher sat down - with new way and old way text

Higher education admissions changes

What has been demonstrated is that there is still a strong level of demand for higher education from school leavers. As we come out of a ‘demographic dip’, 2022 will be the first year in a decade where we start to see a noticeable increase in the number of 18-yearolds potentially looking to secure a place at

Qualifications: T Levels

This will be the first year that we receive UCAS applications from students who have studied T Levels. Universities are keen to ensure that there are courses available and routes into higher education for these new qualifications. We will continue to collaborate with you as teachers and advisers to understand new, existing and legacy qualifications and how we can best assist students to ensure they have a pathway to higher education.

Subject trends

There is continued growth in health and social care applications, covering courses such as nursing, midwifery and medicine. We are also seeing that there is a rise in interest for subjects such as law, media, computing, engineering, biology and psychology.

University offers and competitive courses

In 2021, the way universities made offers started to change, meaning students may have received fewer offers for more popular courses. These trends may continue as demand for these subjects increases. There is currently enough overall capacity in the system for the majority of students, however you might need to encourage students to expand their search beyond the traditional ‘go to’ university and course choices.

There are plenty of good quality, exciting, innovative courses out there, and it is worth exploring them fully with your students.

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