Top UK universities accused of having ‘secret waiting lists’ to boost admissions

Universities in the UK are being accused of operating “secret waiting lists to encourage school leavers to accept their offers amid uncertainty over A-level results.

Universities competing for highly qualified candidates fear that popular academic schools, especially those in the Russell Group of leading research institutions may take advantage of possible grade inflation by increasing their undergraduate recruitment for a second year in a row, leaving less popular universities with fewer students to choose from.

The accusation of secret waiting lists was confirmed to the Guardian by one vice-chancellor, who said that some universities have been known to use the tactic in previous years.

It appears many universities are contacting individual applicants to tell them they may be accepted regardless of their grades if places remain making those students less likely to accept places at other institutions. 

This is taking place outside the formal admissions process. 

Zahraa Asad, a year 13 student who is looking to study law said: “I was contacted by my dream university which I never thought that I could ever get into to be told that I may be accepted even if I don’t meet the entry requirements if places remain.” 

The Department for Education told The National news site they will “monitor and investigate this kind of behaviour and take the strongest possible action” to ensure that universities are “not privately letting people on to secret lists”.

Last year many universities that usually require high A-level grades actively recruited a higher number of UK students, because they feared a steep decline in overseas students.

This year uncertainty is being caused not only by the pandemic but by the decline in EU students following Brexit, with figures published by the Ucas admissions authority showing a 40% drop this year.

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