University Tips Blog
An image of students researching university
A headshot image of the author, Reena Littlehales

by Reena Littlehales

HELOA Chair and Student Recruitment and Access Officer at Keele University

posted on 22 Feb '24

What’s new in higher education? Introducing the recent changes

It’s been a busy time across the higher education sector and there have been plenty of changes too. I’ve summarised some of the key updates below.

Apprenticeships search

Earlier last year, the Department for Education and UCAS announced that, from September 2023, students will be able to browse and discover apprenticeship opportunities on UCAS Hub alongside university courses. This development will allow students to explore multiple avenues for their post-18 options on a central platform. In September 2024, students will also be able to complete applications for apprenticeships on UCAS for the first time, streamlining the research process and providing an accessible hub for all their next steps.

Courses choice and employability

There’s been a continued discussion in the media around the value of higher education and comments around reducing spaces on what the government deem to be ‘rip-off courses’. In their opinion, these are courses that don’t have strong employability prospects. However, universities are increasingly focused on employability and while they improve skills and work-based learning, supported by employer engagement, it is imperative to remember that they also prepare graduates for jobs and sectors that don’t exist yet.

Student experience and teaching methods

Every university is focused on providing a high- quality student experience and that involves offering support that’s in line with increased mental health disclosures and the cost-of- living crisis. We encourage students to explore student support services as part of their general university research.

Also consider that a range of platforms are being implemented to enhance teaching methods and the new Teaching Excellence Framework gradings were released at the end of September. It is key that students have an awareness of how they want to learn when applying to university - blended and online learning doesn’t work for all.

Personal statements

Following the change to the references section on the UCAS application, there’s also an in-depth consultation occurring around the format of personal statements. It is likely that UCAS will move away from free text (allowing up to 4000 characters or 47 lines), and implement set questions instead. These questions are still in discussion as they need to be suitable for all applicants and ensure they continue to improve access to higher education for those from under-represented backgrounds. Expect to hear more about this in the UCAS Adviser newsletter over the next year and remember to share your views!

UCAS have forecasted that the demand for higher education will continue to grow with an expected 1 million applications by 2030. And while there is a concern around capacity, funding and student choice, universities will continue to offer a range of opportunities to facilitate the interests of students. It’s important that you as teachers and advisers continue to discuss options with students, so that they’re aware of their choices and any changes in higher education. We’re here to help with both, so please reach out to us!

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