The Department for Education is currently consulting on the possibility of introducing some form of Post-Qualification Applications or Offers (PQA/PQO) system.  You can find full details of the consultation here.  The deadline for responses to DfE is 13 May 2021.

NNECL and Stand Alone are seeking views on the possible impact of a move to a PQA/PQO system for care experienced and estranged applicants.  A system based on actual exam results may be more transparent and fairer, in particular, for disadvantaged students.  Conversely, such a system might limit the opportunities for institutions to build relationships with care experienced or estranged applicants.  It could also make the process more challenging for courses requiring interviews, portfolio submissions or auditions.

We would welcome your feedback to inform our response on the possible alternative models proposed by DfE.  Please use the feedback form below to share your views with us by 30 April 2021.


The possibility of a move towards an admissions system based around actual results rather than predicted grades has been the subject of many previous consultations since the early 1990s.  Most recently, as well as the DfE consultation, various other sector organisations have been considering this issue.  Related activities include the currently paused review by the Office for Students, ongoing work by UCAS and the Universities UK (UUK) Fair Admissions Review.  In addition to PQA/PQO, the UUK report includes some recommendations relating to care experienced applicants on contextual admissions and the guarantee of places to those who meet minimum entry requirements.   We understand that further work on these recommendations, among others, will be taken forward via stakeholder consultation, led by UUK.

Possible models

The DfE consultation maps out the current system against two possible alternative models, PQA and PQO, which are set out in the following diagram.   

Advantages and disadvantages

There would be advantages and disadvantages in the introduction of any new admissions system.  Some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of introducing PQA/PQO are summarised below.  


  • May reduce barriers for the most disadvantaged applicants, who often have unequal access to information and guidance.  Could also benefit less confident applicants who may have previously ruled out certain options.
  • Removes use of predicted grades which are often not accurate and have become increasingly less accurate over time.  High-achieving disadvantaged students are currently more likely to be under-predicted than high-achieving advantaged students.
  • Applicants make choices based on their actual results, hopefully leading to better matching and greater satisfaction overall.
  • No need for current Clearing/Adjustment processes.
  • May offer higher education providers a simpler process for managing applications.  Also has the potential to reduce the amount of work teachers do in writing references and helping students write their personal statements.


  • May limit opportunities for relationship-building with disadvantaged applicants, including care experienced and estranged students.
  • May add an element of uncertainty or anxiety for applicants as final decisions on applications happen later in the cycle and in a condensed period of time. 
  • Under PQA, a condensed period of time would be available for those courses requiring interviews, portfolio reviews or auditions.  Under PQO, these requirements could still be covered in the period between applications and results.
  • System could be undermined by institutions making informal offers in advance of results.
  • May require more support/guidance from teachers and lecturers during the summer period.


NNECL and Stand Alone are seeking your feedback to inform our responses on the possible alternative models proposed by DfE.  Please complete the feedback form below to share your views with us by 30 April 2021.

DfE consultation feedback form

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