This response, on behalf of the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL), focuses on the needs of care experienced applicants to higher education. Many of these issues would also apply to estranged applicants.
Whatever type of admissions system is in place, it is important for universities and colleges to have the time and space to build supportive relationships with care experienced applicants. Effective outreach and IAG during the application process is of real value in helping to support and motivate this group to achieve their potential and make a successful transition into higher education. While we recognise that a system based on actual examination results would be more transparent, it would also introduce greater uncertainty and discontinuity for care experienced applicants. By condensing the timeframe for applications, as in the PQA example in particular, there is a real danger that some may be deterred from applying at all.
If a move to PQA/PQO goes ahead, young people leaving care would also need to be assured of continuing support from their school/college and local authority in the period between the end of examinations and offers being made. Those with broader care experience, who do not necessarily have local authority support, may face even greater uncertainty and anxiety during this period. Where would responsibility sit for ensuring that these applicants, who comprise one of the most under-represented groups in higher education, receive the personalised, practical and emotional support they need?
Another important issue relates to accommodation and the potential impact for these applicants on access to student housing, housing fragility and tenancy length traps. The pressures of time and concentrated competition for housing may have a perverse effect on care experienced applicants who then become more risk averse and less confident about moving to study.