Monday, 10 May 2010

UCAS Conference - Getting into Competetive Subjects

Key findings from overview and introduction

· 47,000 students accepted places through clearing in the summer of 2009.

· Only 400 students took up places through the new adjustment (trading up) process.

· Applications are increasing year on year and early indications for 2010 are that this trend will continue. Competition for certain competitive courses is also increasing.

· “Unistats” is a new and vital area to use through the UCAS website. There are also student networking sites available through UCAS to provide peer to peer advice. The one currently being piloted is called “yougo”.

· Approximately and very interestingly only 7% of students take up their insurance offer if they do not meet the requirements from their firm offer.

Workshop session 1 – Applying to Oxford and Cambridge

Admissions decisions are based on:

1/ A’Level grades and subject combinations
2/ AS grades and unit marks
3/ GCSE grades
4/ UCAS school / college reference
5/ UCAS personal statement
6/ Submitted work (where requested)
7/ Test Results (where applicable)
8/ Interview performance

· Across all courses chances of being offered a place at Oxbridge is approximately one in five. This varies from course to course though. For example Economics and Management at Oxford as approximately a 10% success rate.

· Most candidates would be expected to achieve 5-8 A*’s @ GCSE Level.

· In terms of the personal statement this should provide clear evidence of where and how the student is engaging in the subject / degree choice outside of the classroom.

· No real advantage of undertaking more than three subjects at A2 level.

· What is being looked for at interview stage:

1/ Genuine subject interest
2/ Appropriateness of chosen course
3/ Enthusiasm for complex and challenging ideas
4/ Clarity of thought and analytical ability
5/ Intellectual flexibility
6/ Vocational / professional commitment (where appropriate)
7/ Interviews are a discussion to enable students to think through problems for themselves.
8/ The interview may act like a tutorial which is unique and typical of the teaching and learning at Oxbridge.
9/ Interviewers are not looking for a smooth performance.

· Standard offer at A2 – Cambridge A*AA – Oxford AAA

Workshop session 2 – Differentiation

· The most popular universities in terms of applications per place in 2008 were:

1/ LSE
2/ Bristol
3/ Edinburgh
4/ Warwick
5/ Kings
6/ UCL
7/ City
8/ Bath
9/ Oxford
10/ Cambridge

· The most popular subjects in terms of applicants per place for 2008 entry were:

1/ Medicine
2/ Dentistry
3/ Veterinary Science
4/ Classics / Greek
5/ Dance
6/ Drama
7/ Nursing
8/ Social Work
9/ Aural / Oral Science
10/ Architecture

· Possible tools for differentiation:

1/ GCSE and or AS grades
2/ A’Level predicted grades including A*
3/ Unit grades
4/ Diploma transcript
5/ Subject combination and suitability
6/ Personal statement ad reference
7/ Admissions tests – where appropriate

· Possible future implications:

1/ Increased use of A* grades
2/ Wider range of entry qualifications – i.e. Diploma
3/ Self selection – (Adjustment)
4/ The impact of a potential change in government?

Workshop session 3 – Getting in Psychology

· This session was run by senior admissions staff from Bath university and Lancaster university.

· Bath is now looking for A grades in GCSE English and Maths if not being studied at AS or A2 Level.

· Bath does not require AS/A2 Level Psychology but does like this to be included in the subjects being studied at A’Level.

· Both universities are aware that is difficult for an A’Level student to find work experience within the area of Psychology but what is key is how that young person has developed outside of the classroom.

· Both universities are therefore looking for evidence of transferable skills and relevant extra-curricular activities.

· Both universities indicated that they would expect two-thirds of a personal statement to provide evidence of the student’s interest in Psychology.

· There were over 73, 000 applications for Psychology courses in 2009. This was a 4% increase from the year before.

· Lancaster University indicated that they fear the impact on applications to UCAS generally if tuition fees are raised.

· There is a real fear this may drop by approximately 10% across all courses if the tuition fee is raised to £6000 PA.

Workshop session 4 – Writing UCAS personal statements

· There are 4000 character spaces and 47 lines available.

· Paragraphs are really important.

· Spelling, grammar and punctuation should be perfect!

· There is now a sophistaced plagiarism detection software system in operation.

· Students are therefore advised to avoid any internet based support around personal statement development.

· Should include commitment, interest and enthusiasm.

· Should be analytical and reflective, not merely descriptive.

· Should include relevant and transferable skills and abilities and work experience.

· Should demonstrate a clear understanding of the course / subject choice.

· Extra curricular activities such as Duke of Edinburgh, Young Enterprise, part-time work and volunteering and community engagement are also crucial and should be explored with the personal statement.

· Students should be encouraged to start thinking about personal statement development in year twelve and not just at the start of the autumn term in year thirteen!

Workshop session 5 – Getting into History

· University admissions staff and university historians are looking for the following skills and qualities in potential students:

1/ Critical and analytical and problem solving abilities.
2/ The ability to ask awkward questions, challenge established opinion and think creatively outside of the box.
3/ Self motivated and willing to work independently for long periods.
4/ Ability and willingness to work with others.
5/ Good organisational skills.

· A history degree can lead to the following careers:

1/ The Civil Service, quangos and local government.
2/ The Legal profession – i.e. (Postgraduate Law conversion courses)
3/ Private sector graduate training schemes.
4/ Libraries, archives and the heritage industry.
5/ The Media.
6/ Teaching – more primary and less secondary.
7/ Postgraduate study – approximately 20% and rising.

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