Engaging the right students helps retention, attainment and social mobility
By Dan Beynon
I’m not sure that Wonkhe’s very kind offer of granting me one policy wish for 2019 will be quite enough to remedy the current situation (so I’m hoping colleagues use their wishes to remove international students from the immigration statistics, introduce maintenance grants, remodel tuition fee loans as graduate contributions, make predicted grades more accurate and introduce an independent body to deal with VC’s pay) but my focus is on the current undergraduate application process.
In 2019 Universities are missing social mobility and diversity targets and leaving themselves even more vulnerable to government policy makers. So I would focus on making some changes that would bring greater transparency to the undergraduate application process.
It’s time to introduce a Post Qualification Application system (PQA) that will simplify the process for all undergraduate applicants and stop universities developing offer making strategies that damage attainment.
Whilst preparations are made for the PQA system’s introduction there would also be an immediate, sector wide commitment to reversing the growth in the number of unconditional offers. For particular courses or personal circumstances these offers remain entirely appropriate but universities need to spend less time devising ways to deliver more unconditional offers and more time focusing on engaging with those students that are right for them and who will enjoy a successful experience at their institution. Potential students need to choose the university and course that is most suited to them and if they do that the positive impact on retention and attainment will be felt across sector. That big decision should not be made on the basis of ill-considered unconditional offer making.