Government takes post-qualification admissions off the table

Changes to lifelong learning funding could mean more students in the higher education system.

24 February 2022

The Government has said it will no longer consider post-qualification admissions, where students could apply to university after receiving their A-level results.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies, Higher and Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan said that post-qualification admissions were no longer under consideration.

“Having carefully considered all the responses [to the consultation on higher education] we have decided to not proceed with post-qualification admissions,” she said.

“Though an idea with noble intentions, the evidence certainly was not conclusive.

“Nor was there consensus that it would overhaul or be a fairer system for those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” she said.

She said the “major disruption” the change would cause would be “inappropriate” at a time when teachers and students were recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

Rachel Wolf, a member of the original Augar panel and a founding partner of Public First, said that the entitlement to life-long learning announced on Thursday meant that more people would enter higher education.

“What we’re actually announcing here is something slightly to increase the number of people who at some point in their lives are actively studying,” she said.

Ms Donelan said the changes would make the HE system more sustainable and that “it isn’t about putting numbers on how many more will get into higher education”.

University graduates (Chris Ison/PA)
University graduates (Chris Ison/PA)

The news comes following a Government announcement that students will begin repaying loans at a salary threshold of £25,000 over a period of 40 rather than 30 years from September 2023.

Ms Donelan said that from 2025 students will have an entitlement to loans to study individual modules of degree courses, creating an “accessible and flexible journey” for individuals of any age to continue studying.

“Above all it’s a system that will support a life-long learning culture,” she said.

In the consultation on the Lifelong Loan Entitlement, every new student will get an entitlement of the equivalent of £37,000 of four years of study, which could be covered as a standard degree or through separate modules.

Ms Donelan said the modules could be used as “building blocks” throughout an individual’s life to create a degree.

She said the modules could be co-designed with business and that accreditation transfer would be explored within the consultation.

Ms Donelan said that potential age limits to the entitlement would also be explored.

Asked about whether minimum entry requirements would bar some students without GCSE English and maths passes from university, Ms Donelan said the consultation was a “discussion stage and its not about barring anybody from higher education”.

“In fact what we want to do is enhance those second chance opportunities like foundation years and ensure that everybody that is thinking about higher education isn’t pushed into it before they are ready,” she said.

She added that those from disadvantaged backgrounds were twice as likely to drop out of courses than their peers.

She said the consultation was also looking at a minimum requirement of two E grades at A level with “lots of exemptions”.

She said the changes would mean an end to the growth in what she described as poor-quality degrees where “we have low levels of completion rates”.

“I think your minimum expectation, when you make a significant financial and time investment in your life, is you’re likely to get the support needed to actually complete the course, and secondly that it’s going to lead to a graduate job,” she said.

Asked about analysis from London Economics that the average man would save £2000 as a result of these reforms, Ms Donelan said this “absolutely” did not mean poorer female graduates would suffer as a result and that “the general principle behind all this is that no student will pay back more in real terms than they borrowed”.

Sir Philip Augar, author of the review into higher education funding, said the announcement of funds for life-long learning was an “absolutely potential game-changer” and the start of a “properly connected system”.

He asked if further education and higher education would “participate with each other” as part of the entitlement, and Ms Donelan said the sectors would need to work together in order to be successful.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said at the event: “It’s hard to begin today without reflecting on the events overnight in Ukraine.”

“Some of you will know my parents and I lived and endured a despotic dictator who lashed out at his neighbours and attempted to invade his neighbours.

“The one thing I can tell you is they never prevail – they will fail, and (Vladimir) Putin will fail.”

“And the resolve of the United Kingdom, of the European Union, of Nato to support the Ukrainian people in their hour of need, is unbending.”

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