UCAS may look to alter the process of university applications, by replacing the personal statement with a series of questions.
Clare Marchant, the chief executive of UCAS said that, despite personal statements being a ‘key part of over two million applications each year,’ they are looking to ‘simplify the process.’ This would include offering ‘greater guidance,’ and help students from ‘all backgrounds have an equal level of support.’
Applicants can submit up to 4,000 words of a personal statement to UCAS. The organisation describes the statement as a chance for candidates to ‘sell themselves to admissions tutors by conveying their suitability for their chosen course.’
The UCAS website offers advice on how to write your personal statement and what to include. The site features a ‘personal statement builder,’ a tool ‘designed to help you think about what to include in your personal statement and how to structure it.’
Currently, UCAS are working with students, teachers and admissions professionals in universities and colleges ‘to consider what changes might improve both the supporting tools and the statement itself.’ One of the proposed changes includes moving away from the current ‘free text box personal statement to a more structured statement with focused questions to help guide students more explicitly.’
The UCAS personal statement has been criticised by universities minister Michelle Donelan who, when speaking at a UCAS event in February, said:
‘I have always felt that personal statements in their current form favour the most advantaged students.’
In January, Lee Elliot Major, Britain’s first professor of social mobility, told The Times that ‘studies of personal statements have revealed a chasm in quality and style between independent and state school applicants.’
While students from independent schools were ‘more likely to have well-written statements, with fewer grammatical errors,’ those from state schools struggled to draw on ‘suitable work and life experiences.’
Major explained that personal statements ‘have become a systematic disadvantage to poorer students.’
‘It is increasingly clear they are more a reflection of how much support candidates benefit from rather than genuinely indicating an individual’s passion for their subject,’ he said.