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UCU calls for greater use of contextual data in university admissions

30 April 2019 | last updated: 3 May 2019

Responding to a report on university admissions from the Office for Students (OfS), UCU said greater emphasis was needed on the context in which exam results are achieved and not just the results themselves.

The OfS found that students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are 15 times less likely to enter the most selective universities than their peers from the most advantaged backgrounds. UCU said it wanted universities to take factors such as background, race and where students live into account.

The union also said it was time for a complete overhaul of the university admissions system and welcomed a commitment from the OfS in its 2019-2020 business plan, released earlier this week, to review admissions.

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: 'Greater and better use of the context in which exam results are achieved is needed if we want to make access to university fairer. Not all exam achievements are equal and universities should not treat them as such. There needs to be much greater use of contextual data so that students progress according to their achievements and potential. 

'We welcome the OfS's commitment to a review of university admissions and want to see a system where university offers are made based on students' achievements and not predicted grades. At the moment, there is too much guesswork involved with teachers, students and university assessors all working on information that is neither reliable nor valid. 

'The OfS should be bold and explore a post-qualification admissions system which would bring us in line with the rest of the world.'