In response to the Augar review of post-18 education, the UK government could stop sudents who fail their Maths and English GCSEs, or those who do not achieve two A levels at grade E or above, from accessing a student loan to aid university study.
Limiting student numbers and introducing minimum entry requirements for some courses may also be big changes for university admissions.
The Department of Education (DfE) has reasoned that students should not be enrolled into university study ‘before they are ready’, and entry into ‘poor-quality’ courses which do not offer a good route into graduate jobs should be restricted.
That said, exemptions to the rule are being considered for certain students, such as mature ones.
With record numbers of 18-year-olds applying to university, this is one way that the government are pushing for young people to consider other qualifications and routes into employment, such as apprenticeships.
Moving the goalposts
The University and College Application Service (UCAS) reports that approximately 10% of university applicants do not have a pass in GCSE English and Maths when they leave school. Most colleges require students to re-sit these exams to complete their course.
The DfE has stated: ‘We need to ensure that we are creating opportunities that will not only open doors, but will develop the talent our country needs to prosper now and in the future.’
However, Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK disagrees, saying that this would ‘constrain’ opportunity and that ‘placing a cap on aspiration by reducing the number of places for people to study at university is bad for individuals, the economy and society.’
Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Executive Chair of the Sutton Trust education charity, surmised the main point of criticism in response to this change. He argues that ‘The introduction of any minimum grade requirement is always going to have the biggest impact on the poorest young people, as they are more likely to have lower grades because of the disadvantages they have faced in their schooling.’
‘Universities are the key route to social mobility, so it is crucial that young people who have the potential to benefit from higher education are able to do so, whatever their background.’