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University Admissions: Will the 2021-22 academic year be pushed back?

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The Government has published two new options for post-18 university admissions, both of which suggest pushing the start of University terms back by a month.

The review suggests moving the start of term back to some point in October, which could possibly push the Loughborough term back into early November, as Loughborough is a university notorious for it’s late-starting terms.

This would allow for students to receive offers (and possibly choose universities altogether) after they have taken their A-Levsls or equivalent qualifiactions.

The change comes after under-fire Education Secretary Gavin Williamson called the current system, where students receive offers before their results ‘unfair’ due to the inaccuracy of predicted grades.

He said that the current system that used predicted grades was “limiting the aspirations of students before they know what they can achieve.”

UCAS data for 2019 showed that almost 80% of students UK accepted to university had their grades over-predicted, with 8% receiving under-predicted estimated grades from teachers – putting students at a disadvantage in both cases.

The Proposal

Two plans have been proposed in the Government’s consultation, both of which result in a later end of term.

The key difference lies in timing.

Two models proposed by the government to change admissions - the first post-qualification applications, the second post-qualification offers.

The two models proposed by the government review (Open Government Licence v3.0)

The first, ‘post-qualification applications’ model sees students submit applications after sitting their examinations in August, with students receiving their offers in September.

The second, ‘post-qualification offers’ system would still allow students to apply before sitting their exams in January, but would allow them to receive their offers and choose their university after their results, in August.

Whilst the second version would lead to less disruption and change, it would still leave the government with its core issue: that students who are under-predicted still don’t apply to the top universities, and those that are over-predicted could still lose out on all their offers.

An October Freshers

Whilst either change would be welcome to many applicants and teachers, it would likely mean the University term being pushed back by up to four weeks to accommodate for the extra administration that would need to happen at the end of summer.

The proposal outlines that students would be asked to attend university “no earlier than the first week of October”, which would allow “at least six weeks for the processing of applications, and the making of offers”.

With many university’s Freshers’ week often starting mid-September, this would be a big change and would likely result in less than 10 weeks of teaching before Christmas, rather than the usual 11 or 12.

A change to a January-October university year was proposed earlier in 2020, but this was dismissed as it would leave the UK with a vastly different timetable to other countries, and could reduce the number of international students in the UK.

We are yet to know which proposal will come into force – and whether it will be in time for 2021.

But with support shown from the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish governments towards a change, it looks increasingly likely that the current system is soon to be at its end.

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LSU Media Technical Officer 2020-21 & former LSUTV Station Manager 2019-20. National Student Television Association Secretary 2020-21.

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