University of Cambridge announces clause to withdraw offers if oversubscribed
In response to the Department of Education’s announcement that all UK A-Level examinations will be cancelled for the second year running, the University of Cambridge has been the first academic institute to formally introduce an “oversubscription” clause. As reported by The Times, this clause relates to the university’s offer of admissions, effectively allowing them to withdraw places if too many students meet the entrance criteria after results day.
The cancellation of A-Levels and a move to centre-assessed grades and the subsequent standardisation process that took place last summer (2020), resulted in significant grade inflation amongst UK pupils; grades were more generously awarded in the absence of examinations, in turn meaning a higher number of university offers were met. Cambridge for example made 4,500 offers for 3,450 places, under the usual assumption that a certain percentage would not meet the grades in the final exams. For the academic year starting September 2020, this resulted in various universities taking on considerably more students than usual.
In light of the 2021 examinations already confirmed as cancelled, there is now considerable concern about the long-term impact of altered assessment methods on university places. Similar trends are likely to occur for the forthcoming admissions cycle, meaning that there is a very real possibility of certain universities becoming continually oversubscribed. This is challenging on a practical level first and foremost – housing shortages and capacity limitations will occur for some of the traditional top-tier institutes, and Medical schools also face huge challenges due to the legal caps on student numbers.
Where does that leave students? At the moment, it is not clear if the universities will have to act on this clause, however by putting in place a disclaimer of this nature, they are reserving the right to alter offers in a way that has never been seen before. Currently, Cambridge has rebutted the tone of the Times article, and in a corresponding statement, they have specified that students who are directly impacted will be offered alternative colleges/ courses or an opportunity to defer. These top-level institutes are aware of the disruption this announcement is causing, and they are doing their utmost to support their prospective students.
Overall we understand this news will be causing considerable concern amongst A level candidates, and we completely empathise with this. Our main advice in the meantime is that students should continue to prioritise their current studies and keep working hard with their existing schoolwork. Although examinations will not be taking place, there will be ongoing teacher/student assessments over the coming weeks and months, so it is important to remain focused. Regardless of any additional global challenges, achieving the best scores possible will continue to be a vital component for the smoothest progression into Higher Education.
For prospective undergraduates who are currently holding offers from the specifically affected universities and who wish to discuss matters further, please get in touch for a more personalised discussion, and please also liaise with your Head of Sixth Form regarding any school-specific strategies.
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