Universities have now entered Visit Day season. Where students with offers come to look around universities before making their final choices of where they would like to go to, provided they meet their conditions.
However, there will soon be proposed radical changes to the way students apply to universities. Currently students are given offers based on their predicted exam grades, but some would like to see a post-qualification application (PQA) system in place which would mean students would only apply to universities when they have their final exam results.
The reasons behind the proposal are understandable. Currently more than 50% of the predictions that are made are incorrect. A PQA system would be fairer and more efficient; it does not require the check that predicted grades were met. It also empowers students to make more informed choice of which universities they can apply for.
The problems occur when the practicalities of introducing the new system are looked at. Time issues appear the most obvious difficulty to overcome, with neither schools nor universities wanting to yield even a few weeks of teaching time. To fit in viewing universities, applying, the application being considered, being invited for interview, a final offer being made and the student making a final choice, into just a few weeks seems unlikely to even the most optimistic PQA supporter.
Despite the difficulties, the Universities Minister David Willetts is set to raise the issue in the spring, and the Head of UCAS Mary Curnock Cook also wants to revive the PQA debate. However, in the current climate of turmoil that surrounds universities over tuition fees, is now really the time to raise a controversial debate over applications?