‘Extremely poor’ communication and ‘inflexibility’: the experiences of King’s offer holders

The King’s Tab spoke to offer holders impacted by the A-levels fiasco

A-level results day has passed, but for many students, the anxiety regarding results and university places isn’t over just yet. The UK Government and Ofqual undertook a complete change of policy on Monday, reversing their decision to award students grades using a controversial algorithm that sparked protests across the country. Instead, students will now receive the Centre Assessment Grades awarded by their institution.

King’s recently announced they would be accepting all offer holders who met or exceeded their conditions with their revised grades. However, the announcement did not apply to courses with external funding and placement years, such as Dentistry and Medicine, where the situation is “being worked through with the relevant agencies”. While this is a positive move from King’s, it leaves other students in the dark, as questions about private candidates, students who must defer a year for entry, and issues with communications and flexibility linger.

The King’s Tab spoke to two King’s College London offer holders regarding their experiences with A-level results and the KCL admissions team. This is what they had to say: “I have been hearing since the announcement of school closures that universities would be flexible. But in my case, King’s has shown an intransigently inflexible attitude.” The 19-year old student, who wished to remain anonymous, holds an offer for Computer Science. The student’s condition was AAA, and they received A*AB, an equivalent result. But they were met with disappointment when they checked King’s Apply, the university’s application portal.

‘…They said they had no more space, and that I’d have to do the autumn re-takes and take another gap year.’

“The message they left on the portal stated that although I ‘achieved results that may be considered equal to the grades required to achieve’ I did not ‘fully meet the offer condition.’ But when speaking to them on the phone, they said it was because they had no more space, and said I’d have to do the autumn re-takes and take another gap year.”

Their experience seems to hold true with the history of many UK universities over-offering places. A recent article by The Tab that analysed UCAS statistics found that King’s makes 6.12 offers per every one place at the university. This figure could make it difficult for the institution to honour every place offered, especially when doing so could usher in six times the amount of freshers with not enough places available.

When asked about their experience contacting King’s admissions, the student was wary. “As far as communication goes, it has been extremely poor. I was told to contact the appeals hotline as they may be able to offer advice. However, when I tried to phone this number, it didn’t work. Eventually, I called and was put in a queue where I waited for two hours before the line just cut off.”

In spite of their negative experience, the student admitted that the blame could not fully be attributed to the actions of King’s as an institution. “With the cap on student numbers, I can’t completely blame King’s for being inflexible. That’s down to the government which somehow managed to make things worse with every decision they took.”

‘Some people can afford gap years, others can’t.’

Another 18-year old offer holder for History and Spanish detailed their experiences communicating with KCL’s admissions team: “King’s apply has been good, but it really didn’t make the option to hold your place for appeals very clear.” The student wished to remain anonymous but went on to share another friend’s difficult experience as well. “I have a friend who held an offer at King’s for nursing and had a terrible time trying to get through to them on the phone. We were hung up on several times after waiting in queue for an hour or more.”

Like the previous student, they confessed that the fault did not fully lie with King’s for the issues students faced. “Obviously with the difficulties created by the government, things must have been tough for the phone operators, but often we got mixed messages on clearing and adjustment. I think that KCL has been very good to honour the offers they made now that CAGs are being used instead. I know some other Russel Group universities haven’t done the same.”

The student reiterated their frustration at Ofqual and the government’s policy changes, adding that it was “sad to see a generation of possible doctors, teachers, nurses, and engineers have to go a longer route to get where they want to be.” They believed that the government’s handling of A-level results  “exacerbated the class-divide, as some people can afford gap years, but others can’t.”

Inputs from the interviews prove that the change in policy, while beneficial compared to the original algorithm, has not been easy for students. Apart from issues relating to results and university places, many students The King’s Tab has spoken to have had their mental health negatively impacted by the sudden changes. Additionally, BTEC qualification students are continuing to wait for grades to be released.

King’s College London has been contacted for comment.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

King’s accepts offer-holders who have met or exceeded conditions

HESA data reveals that only 1.6% of King’s academic staff are Black

These stats show which unis make far more offers than they have places for