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University Admissions - the data we'd really like to see ????

(37 Posts)
boys3 Tue 18-Nov-14 16:13:42

DS1 went through the Uni application process last year and from the threads for previous years, last year and the ones for the current cycle there seem to be a set of commonly recurring questions around how much flex there is around required grades to get an offer, how much leeway there might be if actual results fall short and / or are not spot on the requirements, and what grades get a place through Clearing.

Universities and UCAS have (surely??) all this data, so what is stopping it being published?

To my very simple way of thinking, possible overly simplistic, would it be that difficult for Unis and / or UCAS to publish at subject level more specific and useful data?

Here’s my take on it. I’ve used A2 grades as the basis, but the structure could as easily be applied to A2 points, IB or Btec. I did put in in a nice little excel table to make it easier to understand however I’m not sure how I could paste that in or attach it, hence the rather wordy description below instead.

Top level summary – for Course X at Uni Y. The typical offer range is A*AA to AAB with the aim of having between 180-220 students in any one year. In the most recent cycle for which data is available (ie I've made up) there were 1200 applications received, 750 offers made, and 207 actually took up a place.

First off Offers made by grade.

We know course X had 750 offers made so the next stage would be to show the offer grade breakdown. So for each grade combination for which offers were made ( A*AA, AAA, AAB etc), and plus any unconditional offers how many:

A. Firm acceptances
B. Insurance acceptances
C. Rejections (eg the applicant neither Firmed nor Insured the offer)

For unconditional offers these could be split into unconditionals based on predicted grades, and then unconditionals based on achieved grades (for deferred entry applicants). In the latter case a breakdown would also be provided on achieved grades.

For a bit of added complexity there could be data on candidates rejected for Course X, but who received an offer for a different course.

For the sake of the example let’s say that out of the 750 offers made, 220 applicants firmed and 125 insured.

I'd suggest that this data be made available and published fairly quickly after applications have closed, so available to DCs starting their application process later that year.

Then Places taken up following results

Firstly our 220 Firm applications . Again broken down by the grade offer combination the data could show:

D.The number of applicants that achieved or exceeded the grade combination offered
E.The number of applicants who did not achieve the grade combination offered
F.The numbers of applicants who did not achieve the grade combination BUT were still offered a place on Course X.

Again for the sake of the example lets say the numbers in total were 158 (D), 112 (E), and 14 (F). So at this point Course X has 172 (D+F) confirmed students.

As with the offers if we wanted to complicate things a little further the number not achieving the firm offer, but being then offered an alternative course at Uni Y could also be included along with the number who accepted the alternative course.

Next our 125 insurance applicants. Again broken down by grade offer combination the data could show:

G.The number that achieved their Firm offer, or even if falling short, still had their Firm offer confirmed. We know they won’t be coming to Uni Y, to read Course X
H.The number that missed their firm offer / were not offered a place at their firm but did meet the insurance requirements of Uni Y.
I.The number that missed their firm offer and Uni Y’s insurance offer
J.The number that although missing the insurance offer were accepted at Uni Y.

To keep with the example the numbers were 100 (G), 15 (H) , 10 (I) and 0 (J)

Course X now has 187 confirmed places. (172+15) (D+F+H+J)

Moving on to adjustment applicants . Using the same framework as the other groups but this time by achieved , as opposed to offer, grade combinations.

K.The Number of adjustment requests
L.The number of adjustment acceptances

Lets say that through adjustment another 10 places were confirmed for Course X

Finally places allocated through Clearing . As with adjustment this would show the achieved grade combination and for each such combination (obviously only those combos which received an application through clearing):

M.The number of clearing applications
N.The number of clearing acceptances.

Uni Y were pretty tough in this cycle and took just 10 applicants through clearing, thus giving 207 places filled for Course X in total.

As far as I can see UCAS produce a raft of very top level stats at the end of each cycle, but nothing along these lines. Some Unis publish a bit more , Cambridge have their rather swizzy interactive graphs, Durham publish quite a bit of top level data, but neither get into the what really matters. Then a whole raft of Unis seem to publish next to nothing, or literally nothing.

So is this the kind of data that would be useful to DCs (and parents) - ideally whilst shown for each year including a number of years of data - , and if so, why is it not currently available? Or if it is where is it hidden away?

MillyMollyMama Tue 18-Nov-14 16:23:47

Prospective students should apply to universities they actually want to go to. Not to ones who appear to offer easier grades, or, of course nay not. The grades required may change from year to year, but this is gambling on other people's results, not your own! There is already so much information out there, this is just one more possible piece in the jigsaw and, frankly, not really needed by most prospective students when making an informed choice.

LardyDa Tue 18-Nov-14 16:47:53

My three eldest are currently at uni and my fourth DC has just got her UCAS application in. I'd love to have been able to access the full information of what actual grades Unis accepted. What I'd love even more would be if the whole system was overhauled and applications were made AFTER students received their results.

I thought DD1 was going to miss her firm offer so I called the uni to ask about possibilities before results day. The admissions guy was extremely pleasant and told me they only plan on a third of students that are given FIRM offers after results day to have met the entry requirements confused. This is for a maths course at a RG. DD did miss her offer but got an offer anyway.

My friends DD applied for a different course and was told categorically by several 'good' Uni's (RG) that she would only be firmed if she met the entry requirements in full. There would have been no way to know this unless you had spoken to the admissions staff and know what to ask.

DD2 was thinking of applying for two similar'ish courses at the same university but when she called to ask about it they told her she would only get one offer. Again, there was no way of knowing this unless you had spoken to the admissions staff. (I went through all the paperwork plus all the info online and this wasn't mentioned anywhere)

Despite reassuring DD2 that she should consider looking at unis that are slightly above her predicted grades (ie a grade confused) she doesn't want to as she doesn't want the uncertainty. It's frustrating to know that the specified entry requirements are often not the actual entry grades.

Incidently, I have always admissions staff to be extremely helpful and happy to talk to me or my DC.

titchy Tue 18-Nov-14 17:05:31

where to start!

Very few people would understand what all the data actually meant - your example has 14 columns of data, each institution would have tens or hundreds of rows, one for each course, and of course per institution. So thousands of rows of records.

By the time you drill down to say, adjustment applicants, you have very small numbers so you'd have to suppress them.

if you're trying to split by A level result, how do you do that? Do you include Critical Thinking? General Studies? Do you have the results as a text field, so making analysis a manual thing, or UCAS points? Even if you don't do a points offer? what about non A Level quals?

What if you have a new course?

Or you've changed your course a bit?

Or you're improving your applicant quality?

What if parents took what you published to heart, and banked on their child getting a place despite missing their offer by two grades becasue the data showed that last year 5 applicants who also missed by two were offered. Except you don't know WHY those 5 got offers.

There is a shedload of data out there already, and to be frank, what you're suggesting is enormously expensive, difficult to properly spec and as a result VERY expensivve for UCAS to produce.

The lague table providers are welcome to purchase such a data set from UCAS, the fact that they don't I think alludes to the lack of benefit for the cost.

MillyMollyMama Tue 18-Nov-14 17:07:04

The universities give a range of grades for entry to the courses though. They can offer the lower grade if they need to fill up the places. It is all about bums on seats and maximising income. University Departments who have small numbers are under threat of closure. Prior to results, universities do not know, exactly, what results their students will get so how can they tell parents they are recruiting lower grades that year? It is still better to aim high for 2 UCAS choices. There are still 3 other attainable choices and some risks are considered to be worth taking as the thousands who do not get an Oxbridge interview will testify. I bet the best Maths courses do not lower their grades. It is all about the numbers at the other universities, RG or not.

Worrying about other people's results is just is not worth the effort. If offers were made after results, how would allocation of accommodation take place in such a short space of time?

MuscatBouschet Tue 18-Nov-14 17:34:55

I think this would be useful. But UCAS are very difficult about releasing data. Technically they argue it is owned by the universities and so it is not their role to release it.

Doesn't sound expensive for UCAS to produce. They hold all the underlying data and cell suppression will only be a problem for tiny courses.

titchy Tue 18-Nov-14 19:26:48

Why don't you spec it out and ask them for a quote then if it's that easy. If it's that useful you could sell it on.

fiftiesmum Tue 18-Nov-14 20:12:41

It helps the universities to have higher offers and if as LardyDa says only about a third meet the requirements then admissions can select the students they want to fill the course. So if there are targets of female students, state school students, students from deprived areas then these can be met.

No university wants half empty lecture halls - each empty seat means a loss of £9000.

Kez100 Tue 18-Nov-14 20:24:29

I would like to see the destinations broken down. "In work or further study" is too vague.

titchy Tue 18-Nov-14 20:51:21

Leavers' employment destinations are broken down further, into professional and non-professional as well as broad employment areas. They can't really be further broken down meaningfully - job titles mean nothing, and giving employer details break data protection.

PurpleHebe1 Tue 18-Nov-14 20:52:19

I would love this data breakdown but I'm nerdy like that. It would give something to focus on in stressful moments of the process and could give a better picture of chances of success (rather than no idea)!

Lardyda, surprised that your Dd wasn't allowed to receive two offers for the same uni. It isn't the same everywhere as my Dd applied for two very similar courses at the high-ranked uni she had fallen in love with, got offers for both courses (one v. high and one lower in case of dropped grades) and is very happy there, thankfully. So worth checking with individual unis.

uilen Tue 18-Nov-14 20:58:58

I don't think such a data set would be particularly useful for many reasons:

- Part of the underlying premiss above seems to be that courses with higher entrance grades are better but this is often not true. Many courses rely on their historical reputation to attract Oxbridge rejects, so have high entrance grades, but are not better according to many other measures. A course is not necessarily worse just because its average entry tariff is a bit lower, or it had to take 10 students in clearing. League tables include many other factors in addition to entrance grades.

- Some highly respected subjects are just not popular with students. Very few universities are selecting for maths or physics but this doesn't mean that UK maths and physics courses aren't good. (I suspect that only around half a dozen maths courses in the UK can fill all their places without taking some students they'd rather not take.)

- Candidates with the same grades are not necessarily equivalent. AAA in three relevant, facilitating subjects is not the same as AAA for which two subjects are irrelevant, non-facilitating subjects.

- Similarly an AAB student is not necessarily better than an ABB student, if the former has two low As in irrelevant subjects and a B in the relevant subject, while the latter has a very high A in the relevant subject and two near misses of As in two other relevant "hard" subjects (such as further maths, physics). But breaking down the entrants by grades, UMS and subjects would be absurdly complicated and would violate confidentiality as it would uniquely identify the students.

- Some universities (Durham comes to mind) take quite a high proportion of students from selective state schools and private schools, which makes their average entrance tariffs look high. But these students are not necessarily better than those coming in with lower entrance tariffs from poorly achieving state schools. So you would need to include not just the spread of offers made but also attached to this contextual data on the offers (which again could violate confidentiality).

- Universities don't even finalise their admissions numbers until the start of the Autumn term at the end of September/beginning of October. International student numbers in particular are very uncertain until then. Universities themselves don't have the required data until several months later, which means that it wouldn't be available in the next admissions round.

- There are enormous variations between years, particularly now the number caps have been removed.

- Many courses, STEMM in particular, have a high percentage of EU/non-EU international students who don't come in with A levels. There are formal rules for equating other qualifications with A levels but these are not always considered reliable so academics use their own judgement. This means that international students' incoming qualifications are hard to include reliably in this data but international students might well account for 20+% of the students.

serin Tue 18-Nov-14 21:18:38

DD would like more info on male:female ratio's and the eligibility of these males! grin

LardyDa Tue 18-Nov-14 21:56:30

Kez100. You can get more detailed info on what graduates do once they finish their degrees on Unistats. Here is an example for Sheffield Uni

PurpleHebe we double checked the info we had been given to confirm DD wouldn't get two offers. The courses were similar and had modules in common. There is nothing in any of the literature to say this confused . I am going to try and get it in writing from them.

fiftiesmum I wasn't implying that what the admissions guy told me about the university anticipating that only a third of the students would achieve the required grades was typical of other universities or other departments. It was what that department was doing in one particular year. It was for a maths course and it was at a RG uni. (I only mention that it was RG because we all know MN'ers love RG unis wink )

Having gone through this process four times in 6 years (eek!) I've been a bit frustrated how everything keeps changing. Fee increases, AAB student caps, ABB caps and now no caps. Removing A level January modules is the latest change effecting my DC. Its confusing.

titchy Tue 18-Nov-14 22:17:47

Yes things are changing constantly, and that makes using data from one years cohort to inform the behaviour of another cohort can be misleading . Although to be fair, nationally application rates, acceptance rates, clearing rates etc have actually remained very stable over quite long period of time.

ucas data if anyone's interested, contains a wealth of data.

boys3 Wed 19-Nov-14 08:19:28

I didn't realise quite how terrifying transparency, or even the vaguest notion of it, can be.

NightLark Wed 19-Nov-14 08:34:24

The replies don't seem to indicate to me that transparency is terrifying.

Beyond some valid issues around data protection, which are adhered to by almost everyone anyway and can result in prosecution if they are not, the objections are around the relevance and usefulness of the data.

eatyourveg Wed 19-Nov-14 08:53:38

A few years ago ds had 2 offers from the same uni for very similar courses that shared modules - must depend on the institution. He kept one of them as his insurance but had applied for the other as a back up because it took more applicants and he really liked the department and uni.

At one of the open days (can't remember which place) he asked someone how many applicants, how many offers and how many do they accept.

Unistats didn't exist in the same way that it does now - ds3 has started looking in readiness for next year and already looking at all sorts of data that ds1 didn't have had access to

I think if you really want to know something in particular - there is probably always a way to get the information

uilen Wed 19-Nov-14 09:08:06

Transparency isn't terrifying. The data suggested is just not very useful and could well be misleading without context.

Ask admissions tutors and they will give you this data, along with the commentary required to interpret it e.g. AAA in these subjects outranks A*AA in those subjects; our offer is usually A*AA or AAA, with the latter being for those from weaker schools.

(And BTW for my own course this data is certainly publicly available so I have nothing to be terrified about.)

callamia Wed 19-Nov-14 09:21:22

All the points Uilen raises are excellent.

I just want to add that sometimes we accept students with a very odd looking results pattern, maybe because of a personal or school-problem (you may be surprised how many schools write to us to tell us students have been taught the wrong book or something). Just seeing that we took a student with ABD would tell you nothing useful at all.

Students are considered on more than their grades, and they should be. The grades are somewhat meaningless unless you also have all of the contextual data that accompanies them.

Needmoresleep Wed 19-Nov-14 10:51:00

A question. Has the University sector been affected by the Equalities Act 2010?

My understanding is that this has had an impact within the private school sector where it is now not unknown for wealthy parents, perhaps those who have chosen to base their families in London to gain a good education, to use lawyers to challenge admissions decisions. Universities will have clear internal criteria, but perhaps would prefer not to have a level of transparency that would allow people to question decisions like the one Callamia describes above.

UptheChimney Wed 19-Nov-14 10:53:58

Why on earth do you want that data? Why?

Why can't your DCs think about what they'd like to study and how, and then look at places they'd like to live for 3 years, look at how the subject/s they want to study intensively teach them, and go from there?

The kind of information you're seeking suggests that the main aim of university admissions from the parents' POV is to game the system. What you can do is provide a supportive -- but maybe challenging (depending on the temperament of your child) -- environment for your DC. You can discuss likely choices, offer a sounding board for your DC's reflections, gently nudge if necessary.

But why on earth all that DATA? I just don't get it.

UptheChimney Wed 19-Nov-14 10:58:02

the full information of what actual grades Unis accepted

But that's the previous year's stats. It may or may not be a good guide to the fine detail of this year's stats. Or maybe an applicant just doesn't make it ...

is there a hitting one's head on the desk icon?

Not threatened by this information at all. Just puzzled about what on earth you think you might do with it? And beginning to despair and even heaven forbid agree with those politicians that talk about the 'sharp-elbowed middle classes'

Needmoresleep Wed 19-Nov-14 11:05:06

Is there a "stay calm" icon?!

noddyholder Wed 19-Nov-14 11:06:16

I think this amount of knowledge is veering into helicopter parenting territory Why do we need to know so much nowadays?

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