UCAS And Student Offers – Just How Efficient Do Ministers Think British Bureaucracy Is?


It would appear that education ministers are in the Dreamtime concerning the efficiency of British bureaucracy. For they’re trying to insist that all university place offers should be made only after A Level results are actually known. Rather than the current system whereby some studying for A Levels are granted unconditional places, others conditional upon their results and then the others left scrambling to fit into whatever empty places are left over.

The problem with this being that there is just no way that any British built system of bureaucratic selection is going to be able to cope with the flood of work a proposed move to post-results only selection is going to cause. Worse than that, it’s been looked at in the past and rejected. But still ministers seem to think they’ve a magic wand to wave and it will be done:

The university entrance system could be overhauled so students only apply after they have their A-level grades.

A Level results are announced on August 15th.

A review is likely to consider whether a post-qualifications admission system should be set up, where students only apply to university after receiving their A-levels.

University normally starts in the mid-September to early October time period.

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said on Monday that he welcomes the review, adding that the rise in unconditional offers “may be symptomatic of wider issues within university admissions processes”. In a letter to Sir Michael Barber, the chair of the OFS, he said: “There is a need to establish whether current admissions processes serve the best interests of students”.

There are some 650,000 people applying to enter British universities each year. That includes post-grads and such but. And that is not the number of applications, that’s the number of people, each of whom may make an attempt to enter more than one institution.

Right, hands up everyone who thinks that any British built bureaucracy can sort through 650,000 applicants in only 21 days? You know, enough time for the kiddies to be told which place they will be attending, find a bed to lay to rest weary fact filled heads and all that?


Now try again with this little tidbit of bureaucratic competence. UCAS is the system that runs this whole thing. If you go to their website you are asked – hey GDPR – if you’ll accept cookies. But you get stranded on their cookies page. There’s no obvious* point at which you can say “Yeah, whatever” and then move on to the page you originally selected.

These people are going to sort 650,000 people between 160 odd institutions along with their hundreds of possible courses each, with applicants having multiple possible choices. In three weeks?

Ucas, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, previously attempted to instigate a move to a post-qualification system but dropped the idea in 2012. At the time, university leaders claimed that the move would put too much pressure on admissions tutors by forcing them to consider hundreds of thousands of applications in just a few weeks over the summer.

Well, yes. So, who does believe in the Ministerial Magic Wand?


Do note this is before we even get to overseas students who would probably like to know whether they’ve got to move country rather more than a couple of weeks before term starts…..

*Agreed, I’m not wholly technically literate but I’n not entirely stupid either. There’s no method obvious to me at least.