Sir: Regarding your article "Universities devise new entry system" (17 November), they need to. Not only are the majority of A-level predictions wrong, but admissions tutors are forced to play an absurd guessing game of precisely matching target figures, with financial penalties for errors in either direction, on the basis of teachers' predictions. Moreover, every year some small percentage of students arrive at university without quite knowing why they are there, or whether they are reading the correct subject, because they have conformed to either parents' or teachers' expectations.
However, the proposed new system seems to combine the worst features of both normal entry and clearing. The first phase will still be based on guesswork and presumably this will account for the majority of places, the second phase after the results are known will closely resemble the present clearing system.
A better system might be to take advantage of the modular and semester systems which seem to have been imposed on the majority of universities and to have two entries each year. It could well be beneficial to students if there had to be at least a six-month gap between leaving school and entering university. This might allow them to reflect on their choices and make better decisions. Entry could be timed for semester I or semester II, with two periods of graduation each year. As modular courses are intended to stand alone and be completed within a semester, and there are currently two examination periods each year and two graduation ceremonies, it would take relatively little reorganisation to implement such a system.
Departments would be able to make their offers on the basis of known results to students who had the chance to decide what they wished to read. University administrators would be able to spread their work-load over a longer period, and graduates would be released on to the labour market in two batches. A dual entry period would appear to offer advantages to students, departments, admissions tutors, university administrators and the community at large.
Department of Psychology
University of Leeds