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UK University applications: UCAS reforms

22 Mar, 2023
UK University applications: UCAS reforms

Here at Kings Education we pride ourselves on the amount of support and advice we give our students when it comes to making one of the most important decisions of their lives – where to go to university, and what to study there.

We have established articulation agreements and relationships with a wide range of UK and overseas universities, and always have our students’ best interests at heart when giving advice, and as such our students progress to a wide variety of institutions.

Our higher education advisers are dedicated to ensuring that students have access to all the information they need when deciding on where to apply to.

Previous experience, knowledge, ranking tables, former students’ feedback, visits, university fairs, meetings with admission officers and their representatives, and regular seminar and training meetings all mean we are up to date with advice and guidance.

UCAS reforms consultation

In recent years, UCAS and the UK Department of Education, have been reviewing the applications process and there are some key aspects of that review which are covered below.

In 2021 UCAS published a document, 'Reimagining UK Admissions' in which they covered a potential new model for university admissions that would see students receive their offers based on their actual achievement, rather than an estimate, and eliminate pre-qualification unconditional offers.

Whilst UCAS supports continued admission reform they have “ruled out a strict post- qualifications applications model” and in February 2022, the Minister of State for Higher and Further Education at the time issued a statement which included the comment:

“... after careful analysis of responses to the separate consultation on Post- Qualification Admissions, we have decided not to proceed with this at this time. ...we will work to address underlying problems that underpinned calls to introduce Post-Qualification Admissions.”

So, for now, there will be no reforms to the way in which, and the timing of when, students apply, receive and accept offers.

January 2023 Update

After 2 years’ worth of consultation, UCAS published a new document 'The Future of Undergraduate Admissions' wherein they have outlined some of the key areas of potential change in some more detail.


Starting with the 2024 entry cycle (i.e. for those students who are applying for entry to university in Autumn 2024) the usual “free text” reference will be replaced with three structured questions. Referees will be asked to:

Further information on this will be shared once known.

Grades on Entry

  • UCAS identified an issue whereby the grades with which students entered their chosen university were often different to those advertised as the entry requirements on the university and UCAS website. It was felt that this disadvantaged some students who may have declined from applying to a particular university if they felt the entry requirements were too high, but in fact the universities in question may well have accepted lower grades than those advertised.
  • It should be noted that universities advertise entry requirements as a guide only, and have traditionally been at liberty to lower or raise those requirements depending on the individual applicant. This in itself will not affect the application process per se.

At Kings, if on results day, a student is short of the grades required, our advisers or academic management may see fit to contact a university to ask them if they would accept a student even though they have not met the advertised entry requirement. This is done on a case by case basis.

Personal Statements

  • Feedback shows that students who do not have access to high quality advice and guidance will not be able to use the statement to shine in the same way that their more advantaged peers can. In a 2022 survey, 72% of students asked said they felt positive about the personal statement as it allowed them to “use their own voice and advocate for themselves”.
  • UCAS would like to see a more structured personal statement, based around a series of questions. Currently, six areas have been identified:
  1. Motivation for Course – Why do you want to study these courses?
  2. Preparedness for Course – How has your learning so far helped you to be ready to succeed on these courses?
  3. Preparation through other experiences – What else have you done to help you prepare, and why are these experiences useful?
  4. Extenuating circumstances – Is there anything that the universities and colleges need to know about, to help them put your achievements and experiences so far into context?
  5. Preparedness for study – What have you done to prepare yourself for student life?
  6. Preferred Learning Styles – Which learning and assessment styles best suit you – how do your courses choices match that?
  • An update posted by UCAS on 13th February 2023 said that “personal statements will not be changing for 2024 entry”. So, the earliest the above sections might be used is for entry in 2025, i.e. for those students starting the applications process in the second half of 2024.

Kings staff spend a considerable amount of time pre-application assisting students with the content, structure and tone of their personal statements. However, we always insist that the statement is the students’ own work. To admissions tutors, the importance of the personal statement can vary depending on the subjects applied for.

Coming up in 2023

UCAS issued the following statement regarding the next 12 months:

“[There will be] growing engagement on Predicted Grades. We will also begin exploring reform in the context of international undergraduate admissions, particularly around the opportunity and challenge of increased applications, and therefore competition for places, from students domiciled overseas.

In addition to this, we will commence discussions around personalisation and flexibility, in terms of point of entry, intake, and delivery mode, which have become central to the UK’s continued appeal as a destination of choice for international students.”

We do not yet know how this will impact on the application and progression process yet, but Kings are keeping up to date with discussion and proposals on a frequent basis.

Reimagining UK Admissions.pdf (April 2021)

Future of Undergraduate admissions.pdf (January 2023)

For more information on university preparation and pathway programmes at Kings, or if you have any questions that aren’t answered here, get in touch with us today at