Universities overhaul admissions system

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Universities have agreed to a radical overhaul of the admissions system so that students apply after receiving A-level results, ending the stress and uncertainty of the present process. If practical problems can be overcome, students would send computerised applications which would be received within minutes. Admissions officials argue that it makes no sense to apply for a course a year before embarking on it and with little idea of A-Level results.

A working group set up by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals (CVCP) has agreed to design a system for consideration, which could be in place by 1998,and under which students would receive their results almost a week earlier. At present, universities receive notification several days before the schools Once the results arrived, they would add grades and choice of course to a computer document already bearing details and references. A form rejected by a first-choice university could be quickly redirected on-line to the next choice.

While few universities interview students routinely, preferring to invite them to open days, Oxford and Cambridge would continue to do so.

David Young of the CVCP said practical difficulties could still lead to its collapse. "We might find ruefully at the end of the day that it isn't possible, but I don't think there is anybody who is opposed to the idea in principle," he said.

Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, has argued in favour of reform for two years. "We have to see if we can devise a system that is robust, transparent and fair," he said.

John Dunford, vice president of the Secondary Heads Association, is on the working group. "Young people are no longer going to have to play a game of tactics for which they don't know the rules,"he said.

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