Top universities told to lower their entry requirements by up to two grades

So that disadvantaged students will have more of a chance of getting in

A report produced by education experts at Durham University has recommended that top UK unis reduce their admissions requirements by as much as two grades to allow disadvantaged students a fairer shot at getting in.

The report calls for unis to use more contextual data in admissions, including considering the “socioeconomic and educational contexts in which applicants’ achieved their grades”.

Over 20 universities took part in forming the report, which involves in-depth interviews with heads of admissions and selectors.

As well as advising that unis lower their grades, the report recommends that universities take context into account when assessing applicants’ personal statements, GCSE grades and interview performance.

Cambridge University announced plans this week to offer a free foundation year to disadvantaged students, with significantly lower entrance requirements. The UCAS tariff for the foundation year will be 120 points, equal to grades BBB. The typical entry requirement for arts, humanities and social sciences courses at Cambridge is A*AA.

Overall, the report suggests universities abandon the traditional admissions model, where places go to the highest qualified candidates regardless of social background, to a model “where prospective students’ qualifications are judged in light of their socioeconomic circumstances.”

The lead author of the report, Professor Vikki Boliver, says universities need to be “bolder” in their efforts to admit more disadvantaged students. “Traditionally universities have seen high qualifications as a marker of esteem and have chosen students who are able to handle their courses with relatively minimal support.

“What our report is saying is that if you really want to widen participation and correct for previous inequities then universities need to step up and say grades aren’t necessarily an accurate indicator of how smart someone is or whether they will do well.

“Instead universities need to look at all of the admissions information available in context, as well as offering increased support to students when they are at university to help them achieve the qualifications they are capable of.”

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