Ministers scrap plans for university applications after A-level results

Ministers have abandoned a plan to reform university admissions which would have allowed all students to apply after receiving their A-level results, rather than before.

A document published yesterday in response to a consultation on the higher education shake-up made it clear there were no plans to revisit the issue. The decision had been on the cards after a review by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) concluded it would be too difficult to implement.

Yesterday's report said: "The Ucas review has ... reported with a clear recommendation based on responses from across the educational sector not to move to a system of post-qualification application (PQA). In the light of this very clear response, we will not be commissioning further work on the feasibility and benefits of a PQA model. Admissions are a matter for the higher education sector."

The move has bitterly upset student union leaders, who believed the proposed system would be fairer and encourage more disadvantaged school-leavers to apply to leading universities. It was argued that they would be more confident once they had seen their A-level results.

The decision was one of several announced yesterday by the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, and the Universities Minister, David Willetts. The most far-reaching is likely to be a decision to scrap current restrictions on what an institution must do to win university status. At present, it has to have at least 4,000 students before it can apply to become a university. This number will be reduced to 1,000. As a result, about 12 institutions – mainly specialist providers such as the Royal Agricultural College and teacher training providers – will automatically be able to apply for university status.

In future, private providers of degree courses, which the Government is trying to encourage to expand, will also find it easier to become universities. However, as a result of yesterday's announcement, such providers will also be subject to the same controls on student numbers as state-funded universities.

This move was welcomed by the University and College Union, which feared that private institutions would be allowed to expand unchecked.