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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
There are plenty of good quality, exciting, innovative courses out there, and it is worth exploring them fully with your students.
This free newsletter will include information on university events added to UniTasterDays, as well as details about new webinars and blog releases for you and your students.
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