Steep Price for Graduation
Graduates pose for a photograph after their graduation ceremony at Cambridge University Reuters

The British university system seems to be headed for another radical shake-up, which aims to streamline the admissions process by making it compulsory for aspirants to apply only after they have their A-level scores in hand.

Till date, students in the UK have been applying to university on the basis of estimated or expected scores as predicted by their teachers, which have turned out to be miscalculated on many an occasion. However, according to a recent report in the Daily Mail, a new proposal which enjoys the backing of Universities minister David Willets would allow prospective candidates to apply only after they have been awarded the marks necessary to secure a place at their university of choice.

This would also entail early conduct of the A-level examinations and a reduction in the time taken by exam boards to mark papers, so that students have their grades in hand by early summer and can apply accordingly to Universities where the courses generally commence by late September-early October.

If implemented, this could have positive implications for capable teenagers at mainstream, non-academic schools, who have been found to suffer in the past from underestimation of scores.

As the university education system reels under tuition fee hikes and budget cuts imposed by a government trying to curtail a massive deficit, a lot of attention has been focused on the accessibility of higher education and its implications for social mobility. Setting in place a post-qualifications admissions system is expected to address the issue in part by eliminating the disadvantages to high achievers in comprehensive schools.

Meanwhile, local media reports and individual observations have also indicated that many universities are planning to have their own stringent admissions process in place in order to tackle the task of allocating a limited number of degree seats among a record number of qualified school-leavers with straight As.

A recent government letter outlining future budget cuts to higher education specified that the number of places on degree courses in England would be cut by 10,000 by 2012. However the demand for such places shows no signs of abatement. Latest applications figures from the admissions service, Ucas, reveal a nearly-12% hike in applications for 2011 entry over what was noted the same time last year. Struggling with the mismatch between demand and what they can offer, a fifth of all universities and higher education colleges are staging their own entrance exams to pick out the best candidates, according to a report in The Telegraph.