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Universities: Sport success not as vital as it used to be

Poll of admissions staff reveals 30 per cent would ignore any sporting achievements outlined in students’ CVs

The days of universities seeking the best athletes and sportsmen and women to boost their sporting prowess appear to be over, according to a new survey.

A poll of university admissions staff reveals 30 per cent would ignore any sporting achievements outlined in students’ CV’s.

The arts fare little better, according to the survey, with 27 per cent of all those who took part turning a blind eye to any excellence they have shown in the performing arts.

Instead, according to the ACS International Schools - which runs three schools for international communities in the UK - they would be happy if they just wrote good plain English in their applications.  Two-thirds (67 per cent) cited this as the top priority in determining admissions - while 60 per cent cited a passion for their chosen subject area as essential.

“Students spend an age crafting their personal statements so it’s useful to see exactly which attributes really hit the mark with admissions teams,” said Jeremy Lewis, head at ACS International Schools. “Much seems to boil down to an ability to communicate their passion and a drive to work hard though it’s interesting to see the very strong emphasis on good written English, suggesting that perhaps this is not always a given.”

Work experience was also given a higher priority than performance on the sporting field or in drama - as was any indication that students had held a position of responsibility or leadership in their schools.

Despite the Government’s drive to improve social mobility, only one in three admissions officers gave a high priority to any evidence of success after a difficult start or background. Tom Walton, college counsellor at ACS Egham - one of the three schools in the UK - said this, coupled with the fact that 78 per cent said they did not consider any data relating to parents, could indicate that “most universities would prefer to stay above the political fray and select candidates on ability alone”.