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Ucas to scrap personal statements for student applicants

Image: Tero Vesalainen, via Shutterstock

Admissions body pitches reforms to make admissions process fairer

Students will no longer have to write an essay-style personal statement in their Ucas applications, after the admissions body announced an overhaul to the process.

Ucas said in a report published 12 January, Future of Undergraduate Admissions, that students would answer a series of questions about their reasons for choosing a course instead of writing a personal statement.

There have been concerns that the personal statements disadvantage students who do not have access to good guidance and support when writing the essays, which some feel could “widen the gap” between applicants.

The change comes after scrutiny from the Department for Education on the admissions process. The DfE carried out a consultation on whether to switch to a system of post-qualification admissions in 2021, although it ultimately decided not to continue with the changes.

Writing in a Higher Education Policy Institute blog on 12 January, Ucas head of strategy and reform Kim Eccleston said that “most students are in favour of personal statements” as it gives them the chance to “demonstrate achievements beyond their grades”.

But more than 80 per cent said they found the process of writing the statement stressful, and 79 per cent said the statement is difficult to complete with no support.

Eccleston said the replacement questions will prompt students to write about six areas, including their motivation and preparation for the course and for studying at a higher level, how other experiences have helped to prepare them for university, any extenuating circumstances and their preferred learning style.

“We believe this will create a more supportive framework which in turn will help guide students through their responses by removing the guesswork, as well as capturing the information universities and colleges have told us they really need to know from applicants when it comes to offer-making,” she said.

Once the questions have been finalised, they will replace the personal statement from 2024-25.

The report also revealed that Ucas will introduce reports showing students the range of grades that have been accepted for their chosen course in the past, and it will replace the free text option for referees to comment on students with a series of questions.

It will try to offer students more personalised guidance on what their post-secondary options are, and will launch an Outreach Connection Service designed to help universities and employers in their efforts to improve access and participation.

Ucas consulted with 1,200 students, more than 170 teachers and advisers, 100 universities and colleges and government representatives when creating the report.

In her blog post, Eccleston stressed that “reform is an evolving process”, and she said that Ucas would “keep engaging with the sector to help us shape the delivery of these reforms”—particularly the changes to the personal statement.