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Students' fears over exam assessment

3 May 2020 | last updated: 4 May 2020

Almost half of university applicants think that the coronavirus crisis will have a negative impact on their chances of getting into their first-choice university, according to research from the Sutton Trust

The research also found that working class applicants are more likely to be worried about the impact on them than their middle-class peers (51% vs 43%), and that students at private schools were almost twice as likely to be regularly completing work and receiving feedback than those in state schools (57% v 30%).

UCU said colleges and universities needed to make greater use of contextual data so that students progress according to their achievements. The union also backed the Sutton Trust's call to move to a system in the future where students apply to university after they receive their results.

Last month, UCU warned that disadvantaged students could be the big losers under new assessment plans to replace exams this summer. Research shows that high-achieving, disadvantaged students are more likely to have their grades under-predicted than their wealthier contemporaries.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: 'This survey appears to confirm fears that it is disadvantaged students who are most likely to lose out under this new system. Research shows that disadvantaged students fare badly when it comes to predicted grades, and they are less likely to be able to put life on hold to delay sitting exams, or have access to the tools required to navigate any appeals system.

'We are worried about the numbers of students considering deferring or cancelling their studies, particularly in non-Russell Group universities. This could be a big step backwards for widening participation.

'The context in which qualifications are achieved needs to be considered by colleges and universities. Not all achievements are equal and they should not be seen as such. Colleges and universities will need to make greater use of contextual data.

'Allowing students to apply to university after they receive their results would bring us into line with the rest of the world, eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and ensure that university offers are based on actual achievement rather than unreliable estimates of potential.'