A Higher Education Update (1 of 2)
By Jonathan Atkinson, Events Manager at the University of Liverpool and HELOA UK Chair
Until recently students have followed a wellworn path when researching their choices and
applying to higher education. School, college
and university support teams knew the cycle
and each year enhanced our understanding
and subsequent support.
Needless to say, this has not been our
recent experience and it may be a while
before we know what the new ‘normal’ looks
like. To understand some of the changes
and challenges here’s a (very) brief sector
Higher education admissions changes
Applying to university has never been more
popular and the trend only looks to increase
with 700,000 applicants for entry in 2021 and
UCAS forecasting that this could hit 1 million
applicants by 2025.
Selective courses have had to be (and I believe
will continue being) increasingly careful with
their contractual offers as Teacher Assessed
Grades and Centre Assessment Grades have
not resulted in the variance of achievement
that typical A-level exams resulted in.
Increased numbers of students attending their
first-choice university also meant a smaller
clearing cohort in 2021, with less students
exploring other opportunities offered by
institutions with spaces.
Preparing for the jump into higher education
Although many students may have found
researching and preparing for higher education
disrupted, universities have pulled together
wide-ranging expertise from their teams to
create new transition programmes.
Some programmes are for students with their
university entry confirmed with course and support specifics and others are open and
online. Either way, the student journey from
first chat to first graduate job is sharply in
focus. A quick google search will show you a
broad offer, and the Office for Students also
have some case studies too.
Leading on from focusing on student success
is how success is being defined. This is a
contentious topic with many different answers
depending on who you ask. Some regulators
will insist that quality is based on quantifiable
metrics that can correlate to increased salaries
for graduates over the course of their careers.
Others would argue that this creates tunnel
vision on what higher education is worth and
what it is for.
There are, and will remain, a huge number of
benefits to going to university that improves
a person’s quality of life and satisfaction,
even if it did not result in a six-figure salary.
The debate will continue, and I wouldn’t be
surprised to see ‘Augaresque’ headlines of, if
not steps taken towards, £7,500 tuition fees for
some courses emerge again in 2022.
Post-18 education but not as you know it
The sector itself is continuously changing
and adapting to what students, society and
the economy need and discussions seem to
indicate a growth in post-18 options. Watch out
for more accelerated (2 year) degrees, ideally
more opportunities (increased numbers please)
of degree apprenticeships and slightly further
into the future, a teaching and funding model
that supports lifelong learning, encouraging
engagement with further and higher education
over a person’s lifetime to develop relevant
Crystal ball gazing – so what is the future?
Looking to the year ahead, you would hope for
a steadying of the sector, some reflection on
our learnings and how best to bring together
the two worlds of pre and post pandemic
teaching and student success.
Depending on the political climate and who is
in charge of education in the next 12 months,
a debate on post qualification admissions
(PQA) or offers (PQO) will be of huge interest
to everyone involved in helping students make
informed decisions about their futures.
Changes to systems and processes can
result in better ways of working. I would
caution against changing a system that is
widely understood to work, albeit with needed
improvements, for one which could bring a
host of new and unknown challenges.
The sector always changes; however
consistency can always be found in the
volumes of support and engagement on offer
from your local university’s recruitment/
outreach teams (whichever title they fall
We’ll return to some trusted ways of providing
information and we’ll discover new ways
to provide ongoing support. If the sector
interests you then keep in touch with your
local recruitment and admissions teams, give
yourself a weekly treat of reading Wonkhe, and
for advisers always keep up to date with UCAS.
Higher Education Update (2 of 2)
By Alix Delany, Head of Admissions at the
University of East Anglia
There is never a dull moment in education.
In the past 18 months the higher education
sector has been consulted on a wide range
of issues, whether it is the future of technical
qualifications, the outcomes of the Augar
review, how qualifications should be assessed,
post qualification admissions systems, degree
apprenticeships, funding of subject areas, and
widening access to higher education, including
All of these complex subjects are intertwined,
and the discussions around them will continue
in the years ahead, as they impact and shape
the sector for the next decade and beyond.
This is of course against the backdrop of
Covid-19, and how we ensure students entering
higher education are supported both practically
Higher education admissions changes
What has been demonstrated is that there
is still a strong level of demand for higher
education from school leavers. As we come
out of a ‘demographic dip’, 2022 will be the
first year in a decade where we start to see a
noticeable increase in the number of 18-yearolds potentially looking to secure a place at
This will be the first year that we receive UCAS
applications from students who have studied
T Levels. Universities are keen to ensure that
there are courses available and routes into
higher education for these new qualifications.
We will continue to collaborate with you as
teachers and advisers to understand new,
existing and legacy qualifications and how we
can best assist students to ensure they have a
pathway to higher education.
There is continued growth in health and
social care applications, covering courses
such as nursing, midwifery and medicine. We
are also seeing that there is a rise in interest
for subjects such as law, media, computing,
engineering, biology and psychology.
University offers and competitive courses
In 2021, the way universities made offers
started to change, meaning students may have
received fewer offers for more popular courses.
These trends may continue as demand for
these subjects increases. There is currently
enough overall capacity in the system for the
majority of students, however you might need
to encourage students to expand their search
beyond the traditional ‘go to’ university and
There are plenty of good quality, exciting,
innovative courses out there, and it is worth
exploring them fully with your students.