UA submission to Ofqual & DfE consultations on summer 2021 grades

University Alliance welcome the opportunity to make a brief submission to the Ofqual and DfE consultations on arrangements for awarding grades for GCSE, AS and A levels and awarding arrangements for a range of vocational and technical qualifications in summer 2021 focused on the proposed timeline for higher education admissions.

Alliance universities accept that there will be significant changes to the admissions cycle in 2021-22 and are prepared to be as flexible as possible. However, we are strongly opposed to the ‘decoupling’ aspects of the proposals – i.e., students receiving provisional grades in July several weeks before higher education institutions (HEIs) receive confirmed grades.

In our submission we lay out three principles that we believe are necessary for a fair and effective higher education admissions cycle this year. In our view, these would benefit students, schools/colleges, and HEIs alike.

  1. Teaching should continue as long as possible through the academic year to ensure that the whole curriculum is covered, aiding students’ preparedness for further study. Content should therefore continue to be delivered during the exam period.
  2. As far as possible, the usual higher education admissions process and timetable and should be followed. This means:
    a. Students should not be told their grade before Results Day or receive provisional grades before HEIs.
    b. HEIs should receive embargoed results five to six days before students to allow for a thorough and equitable assessment of applicants as part of the confirmation process. This is particularly important this year when the students who face the biggest barriers accessing higher education are also the most likely to have been affected by the pandemic. HEIs will need time to carefully consider contextual factors in a planned and organised manner. This will also ensure students are clear on the outcome of their applications and next steps.
    c. Results for AS and A levels and vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) should be coordinated and released at the same time and include Access to Higher Education Diplomas. Many applicants to Alliance universities are studying a mixed programme of qualifications, e.g., A-levels and BTECs. Any delay in the publication of results of different types of qualifications causes delays in confirmation and additional stress for applicants.
  3. Students, schools/colleges and HEIs need clarification on the model of assessment and associated timelines as soon as possible. For HEIs, confirmation and clearing are significant operations which require months of detailed planning.

We understand UCAS is proposing an alternative model that envisages schools sending results to UCAS and HEIs in late July/early August, and Results Day taking place in early August. There is no ‘decoupling’ of results in this model. We are fully supportive of these alternative proposals.


For more information, contact UA’s Head of Policy Susanna Kalitowski on

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