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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Growing calls for post-exam applications
Widespread support has been expressed for changing the university applications timetable

There are growing calls for a shift in the school exam and university timetables, so that pupils would have their A-level results before applying to university.

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have expressed support for such a change to the system, which they say would be fairer for both students and universities.

Brunel University vice-chancellor, Steven Schwartz, carrying out a study of the university admissions process, on behalf of the government, has indicated the benefits of moving towards such a "post-qualification" system.

This triggered speculation that this policy could be adopted by the government, with the Department for Education and Skills saying that it will investigate the feasibility of re-structuring the applications system in this way.

Teachers and head teachers have backed such a move, arguing that it will provide a more level playing field for applicants, who will be in a better position to know where they should be applying once they had their results.


It has also been argued that this will particularly benefit young people from poorer backgrounds who are unfamiliar with the university system and who might "under-bid" in their applications to more prestigious institutions.

"Making university applications after you know your A-level grades is clearly fairer both for the student and the university. This may involve taking A-levels a month or so earlier, or moving the start of the university year to January," said Damian Green, the Conservatives' education spokesperson.

"Students need post-examination application to university. It will require the introduction of a five- or six-term year in schools. That timetable will allow a fixed term for examinations, followed by a term for the marking and applications cycle. Universities will be able to take an entry in January rather than October," said Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson.

"This proposal means flexibility for students and less complication for universities, and should be taken very seriously by Charles Clarke."

Against this wave of calls for a change in the system, there have been claims that it will not be easy to switch to applying for university after results have been published.

There have been concerns about how young people would be able to visit potential universities and meet with staff, with only limited time available.

Although it has been suggested that visits and open days could continue within the school year - and that these campus visits would help to inform decisions about applications, once the exam results were published.

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