Universities UK, the representative organisation for UK universities, has proposed a package of measures to the UK government which aims to provide stability and support the higher education sector during these challenging times. This was before the UK government announced their detailed package of measures, on 4 May 2020.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, and the risk it imposes on higher education and between higher education institutions, UUK proposed a stability measure for the academic year 2020/2021. The goal is for the stability measure to be defined by the commitment that universities will proceed supporting fairness in the admission process.
The proposed agreement, according to UUK, applies to England and Wales, and its principle is that universities should not compel students by making unconditional offers, which might cause students to make pressured choices. Universities UK proposed that universities should, among others, follow the UCAS terms of service, which includes the recruitment of full-time home undergraduate students through UCAS only.
The agreement also adds that universities should abide by the five Schwartz principles on fair admissions which enhance transparently when it comes to admissions. UUK lists a sixth principle, which elaborates that universities should think of the best outcome for the applicant, even if it happens not to be the best outcome for the institution.
Universities should refrain from making offers which ‘force’ students to make decisions, such as numerous unconditional offers, conditional unconditional offers, or make changes which impact offer making practices. All these can potentially pressure students towards making decisions which are not related to their interests.
Other conditions include an instruction to universities to be flexible and understanding of the current situation and make sure applicants are not systematically disadvantaged. This means ensuring that the grades applicants get through teacher assessment will hold the same value as in the previous years. Higher education providers should also proceed to try and widen the access towards new students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Office for Students (OfS) and The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) will also be contributing in order to ensure that consequences will follow if universities do not abide by the expectations set out from the agreement.
As for the package of measures introduced by the UK Government just recently, the Government announced that it will be protecting students when it comes to making informed decisions about university entry. It will also provide £100m of public funding in order to support the universities’ research activities. Regarding students’ complaints, the package ignores the tuition fee rebate students have been requesting ever since face-to-face teaching was interrupted.