Richard Garner: Further education has failed the students of tomorrow

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I cannot help but believe today's Ucas review has missed a trick by opting to ditch plans for a radical shake-up of the admissions service. It just seems so logical that students should do their A-levels, get their results and then apply to the best university for them.

It is argued that because of the short timescale, the admissions officers would not be able to judge the potential of disadvantaged students who may have slightly lower A-level grades as a result of the struggles they have had in life.

The argument would hold more water, perhaps, had we achieved a massive success with getting disadvantaged students into Britain's top universities.

Obviously, it would be difficult to co-ordinate timetables between the four different countries of the UK to introduce such a scheme – but delaying the start of the autumn term should counter that problem. (Incidentally, that would help them spend more time assessing students' potential).

The report itself warns that leaving the system as it is will mean another long-standing problem remains unsolved: what to do about the fact that so many predicted grades for students are inaccurate.

Oh well, never mind, the conclusion seems to be. I remember when Stephen Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University, floated the idea as a result of a government review ordered by Labour a decade ago.

He argued that if a Martian came down to the UK and asked for an explanation of the university admissions system, he, she or it would be baffled.

"You say A-levels are the most important determinant of whether you get a university place? Yes, I can see that but I don't understand why you apply when you haven't got any." Answers on one side of A4, please. Post qualification application, though, would overcome that hurdle. Instead, it seems we are intending to continue with a system that is bemusing in the extreme instead of embracing radical change – as many other parts of our public services have had to do.

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