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UK universities spend just two minutes on student statements

Russell Group admissions officers spend even less time reading personal statements, survey finds

The average time UK admissions professionals spend reading a student’s Ucas personal statement is two minutes, a survey has suggested.

According to the Higher Education Policy Institute, which surveyed 113 higher education admissions professionals from at least 31 providers, the average at Russell Group research-intensive institutions is even shorter, at just 90 seconds.

Across all institutions, 39 per cent of personal statements are read in one minute or less, despite over half (51 per cent) of those surveyed agreeing that the statements have a significant impact on admissions decisions.

“The fact that four-in-10 Ucas personal statements are read for one minute or less underlines the importance of reform in this area,” said Tom Fryer, the lead author of the report. “The personal statement is a stressful, ambiguous and lengthy process for many applicants, and this simply cannot be justified if the majority of statements are skimmed quickly by admissions staff.”

In January, Ucas announced that an overhaul of the admissions process could mean that students no longer have to write a personal statement as part of their application. Instead, students may have to answer a series of questions about their reasons for choosing a course.

Nick Hillman, director of Hepi, said it was time to look “in detail at how university admissions staff make decisions”.

“This report shows personal statements are sometimes not read at all and, when they are, they are typically digested very quickly,” he added. “Shining a spotlight on the use of personal statements was always going to be useful to applicants and those who advise them, but doing it now helps inform the important reforms that Ucas are currently planning.”