Friday, December 9, 2011

College admissions, exams, and "clearing" in Britain

"Mary Beard, the Cambridge University classics professor, said the admissions system employed in Britain was “more difficult and stressful than it should be”.
"The comments were made after the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service proposed a sweeping overhaul of the current system.

"They are planning to allow students to apply for places after receiving their results for the first time in a move that would lead to A-levels being brought forward and candidates choosing courses over the summer.

"Currently, students are supposed to apply to Oxbridge by October – around a year before courses start – and to other universities in January. Candidates are then given provisional offers based on the proviso that they gain predicted exam grades the following summer.

"Those who fail to score high enough in A-levels and other qualifications are eligible for “clearing” – the system that matches students to spare places.

"But writing on BBC online, Prof Beard said: “More than anything, it is the bizarre timetable that makes the application process so preoccupying.

“When we say in January or February that someone ‘got in’ to their chosen university, we don't actually mean that. We mean that they will have got in if they achieve the grades demanded by the university in their summer exam, which even if all goes well, drags out the nail biting for a good six months.”

"She added: “If it doesn't go well and they don't get the grades, they enter a whole new round of applications in August.

“This is a frenetic process, with applicants tracking down the remaining unfilled places by email and phone - then being given maybe a few hours to accept a place for a course they haven't really explored at a university they know little about.”

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