Coronavirus - how have university applications been affected?

uncertain times

student in mask

It goes without saying, but the current coronavirus pandemic has caused confusion and uncertainty in all walks of life. With a lockdown currently imposed on the UK, it's difficult to comprehend exactly when life may return to some form of normality.

Despite these government restrictions, schools, colleges and universities are still continuing to enrol students ahead of the new school year, and make preparations for returning students. This is, therefore, a particularly unsettling time for students who are currently completing their final year at sixth form and who are aspiring to progress to university.

grades and assessment

exam grading

Following the announcement by the Secretary of State for Education that all UK examinations would be cancelled this summer, we have now been informed exactly how student grades for A Level and IB (amongst others), will be calculated. At the start of April, it was declared by Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) that all schools and colleges would be asked to provide centre assessment grades for all their students.

It was stated that these should be fair and objective grades, based on a number of different considerations. Sources such as coursework, classwork and practicals will be evidenced to form a grade in each subject. Students who are unhappy with any of their grades, which will be published on 13th August, will still have the opportunity to sit exams at a later date. Universities will be doing their best to accommodate for the extra time this will take, in terms of student start dates. You can find out more about by reading our article all UK school examinations have been cancelled; what does this mean for students?

Government advice to colleges and universities

government advice

In the interest of fairness, the Government has asked all colleges and universities to temporarily refrain from amending any current offers, or making any further unconditional offers, until 4th May 2020. This is to prevent individuals from feeling pressured into accepting an offer they already have at this time, over one they might be better suited to, but might only receive upon attainment of their target grades.

UCAS response

To align with this Government advice on university offers, UCAS have made some changes to allow more time for students to consider their offers. Firstly, they have extended their May offer deadline for undergraduate applicants by two weeks. This means that universities now have until 20 May 2020 to make a final decision on all applications they have received. UCAS will be getting in touch with all applicants affected by this.

Secondly, they are also going to allow further time for students to make decisions on the offers they have received. This refers to when students must select their firm and insurance choices, and reject all other offers. For those who receive their last decision on or before 4th June 2020, they have until 18th June 2020 to respond to their offers. Those who receive their last decision on or before 13th July 2020, have a reply date of 20th July 2020.

how has this affected applications?

university application

In short, it hasn't. Other than the extensions to offer deadlines, the application process will remain entirely the same. There are no extra actions that any current applicant has to take, as all applications will progress through the admissions process in the same way they normally would. All grades attained will be treated in the same way by awarding bodies and universities, as in previous years.

Having said that, universities have also been asked to provide a degree of flexibility, particularly to applicants who are unhappy with their grades, and wish to take exams later in the summer to improve on them.

what should applicants do next?

online university application

As usual, all applicants should take some time to consider all their offers, before responding to them by the new deadline. UCAS will be communicating these deadline extensions to all students affected, but it would be beneficial for everyone to have an idea of the timescale they have.

With regard to offers already received, any unconditional offers that have already been accepted will remain so. Any conditional offers received will still become unconditional, providing the offer conditions are met. Anybody applying as a private candidate, rather than through UCAS, will need to get in touch with the universities they have applied to directly. If an application is unsuccessful, students can still use Extra and Clearing as normal.

It's important to remember that, although grades are the predominant factor behind any offer, places are also decided based on information in personal statements, portfolios, auditions, and anything else referenced in the application process.

You can find out more by visiting UCAS's coronavirus update page, a link to which you will find below.

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