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Ucas tariff system 'set to be axed'

The points-based system used by students applying to higher education is now likely to be scrapped after the move gained widespread support from universities and schools.

Around two-thirds are in favour of proposals to axe the Ucas "tariff system", according to a report by the admissions service. Instead, universities will ask would-be students for specific qualifications and grades when offering places on degree courses.

Proposals to overhaul the tariff system, which would mean a major revamp of university applications, were put forward for consultation by Ucas earlier this year. The findings of the consultation, published this month, have shown backing for the plans.

Ucas had recommended that universities consider the "gradual withdrawal" of the tariff system and replace it with the "greater use of qualifications and grades". The move would give students a clearer indication about how the qualifications, such as A-levels, that they choose to take will be relevant to different degree courses at different institutions, it said.

In total, 63.5% of all of those who responded to the Ucas consultation were in favour of the plan in principle, the latest document shows. Universities, schools, awarding bodies and government, regulatory and funding bodies all submitted replies. About 16.1% of respondents were against the proposal.

It also reveals that among universities alone, more than two-thirds were in favour of moving away from the tariff system. Many of these institutions already make grade and qualification-based offers, it found.

Ucas's report concludes: "It was widely felt that qualification and grade-based entry requirements and offers are clearer and more transparent for learners and offer those higher education providers who actively select applicants for their courses greater control over admissions."

But there were also fears that scrapping the tariff system could narrow students' choices at A-level standard and lead to schools focusing on exams that will win students places. This could mean putting academic qualifications over vocational ones.

The report says that a number of those replying to the consultation raised concerns that qualification and grade-based offers "could lead to a narrowing of the pre-university curriculum, as schools and colleges prioritised the delivery of those qualifications and subjects that most commonly featured in higher education requirements, and moved away from qualifications that were less explicit within these requirements, eg additional subjects and qualifications for enrichment (which may also have been valued previously as a source of additional tariff points)".

Under the current tariff system, designed more than a decade ago, A-levels and other courses are each given a points score. Universities then use these points to make offers to students. But concerns have been growing that university applicants now have a wider range of qualifications, not all of which are recognised by the current tariff.

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