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Pupils could take exams earlier and apply to university after results, under government plans

Jon Stone
·2-min read
 (UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Imag)
(UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Imag)

Students could be made to apply for university after they have got their exam results rather than before, under plans unveiled by the Department for Education.

The government has floated a system that would see exams such as A-levels shifted earlier into the school year to give time for them to be graded and placed to be allocated.

The proposal, part of a consultation unveiled by ministers, is one of the options under consideration as part of a move "post-qualification admissions".

Under the current system, sixth form students are given "predicted grades" by their teachers and then seek offers from universities on the basis of those, which they must meet.

The DfE plan follows a review of the admissions system by the Office for Students (OfS), the university regulator, which suggested moving to a post-qualification system could be fairer.

A second model suggested in the department’s consultation would see the date of exams unchanged, but A-level results day moved from mid-August to the end of July.

The university term would then be made to start "no earlier than the first week of October" to allow "at least six weeks" for applications to be processed and offers to be made to students.

The document says ministers are keen to avoid increasing teachers’ workloads.

The government believes that moving to post-qualification applications "is likely to have a positive impact on high attaining but disadvantaged students”, according to an equality analysis published alongside the consultation.

A study by the think-tank the Sutton Trust published last year found that two thirds of students surveyed in September believed a post-qualification system would be fairer. Just 10 per cent thought it would be less fair and 14 per cent said it would be same.

Researchers for the Trust warned that the current system was too heavily dependent on “unreliable teacher predicted grades”.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Today I have also published the post-qualifications admissions reform consultation to seek views on whether to change the current system of higher education admissions and move to a system of post-qualification admissions."

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