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Welcome to SPA The Robert Gordon University – 22 April 2009 Leslie Currie, SPA Senior Project Officer.

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Presentation on theme: "Welcome to SPA The Robert Gordon University – 22 April 2009 Leslie Currie, SPA Senior Project Officer."— Presentation transcript:

1 Welcome to SPA The Robert Gordon University – 22 April 2009 Leslie Currie, SPA Senior Project Officer

2 In this presentation The origins of SPA and the Schwartz Report principles What is SPA now? What we do to support HEIs SPAs priorities from 2009 Feedback - Admissions Policies, clear criteria and options for feedback Conclusions

3 The origins of SPA Set up in 2006 following the Schwartz Report Fair Admissions to Higher Education: Recommendations for Good Practice 2004: The Group recommends the creation of a central source of expertise and advice on admissions issues. Its purpose would be to act as a resource for institutions who wish to maintain and enhance excellence in admissions. Such a centre could lead the continuing development of fair admissions, evaluating and commissioning research, and spreading best practice.

4 What is SPA? UKs independent and objective voice on HE admissions Set up to develop an evidence base for good practice; to provide expertise and advice to the HE sector to enhance professionalism in admissions, student recruitment and widening access SPA leads on the development of fair admissions, and managed the review of the implementation of the Schwartz Report Fair Admissions (2004) principles, published December 2008 The SPA Steering Group, with representatives from all the UK HE funding bodies, oversees the Programme Six staff with a busy programme to July 2011

5 The Schwartz Principles In 2004 Schwartz recommended 5 principles for fair admissions: transparent 2.enable institutions to select students who are able to complete the course as judged by their achievements and their potential 3.strive to use assessment methods that are reliable and valid to minimise barriers to applicants professional in every respect and underpinned by appropriate institutional structures and processes Equal opportunity for all individuals, regardless of background, to gain admission to a course suited to their ability and aspirations.

6 What is SPA doing to support HE providers? Good Practice statements and briefings Admissions Policies, Feedback, Interviews, Criminal Convictions, Entry Profiles, Admissions Tests, Working with ECU on native languages issues, age and admissions etc Gathering and sharing good practice Visits to over 110 institutions across the UK – relatively informal information exchange; SPA conferences and SPA website are a useful resource for HE SPA inputs topics into UCAS Professional Development programme and encourages institutions to train all staff involved in admissions to enhance professionalism

7 What is SPA doing to support HE providers? 2 Encourage full adoption of the QAA code of practice on admissions Work with the Delivery Partnership, encouraging HE to develop more detailed Entry Profiles and enhance feedback to unsuccessful applicants Schwartz Report Review to find out whats changed and developed since 2004 on principles of fair admissions Advice, guidance and discussion with national organisations e.g. UUK, QAA, UCAS, HEA, NCEE, ECU, University and College mission groups, NUS, government departments, funding councils etc with regard to admissions, contextual data, qualifications, widening inclusion etc from an HE perspective

8 SPA and the future - priorities from 2009 Admissions Policies – finalise Good Practice Guidance The Applicant Experience - Pre-application – information and guidance; Application – offer making, feedback; Post-application; Transition and support Contextual data and holistic assessment Vocational qualifications and entry to Higher Education Part-time students – admissions issues, process and policy Higher Education in Further Education Equality and diversity – including Equality Impact Assessments Strategic change – work with senior managers in HEIs; and raise the standing of admissions within institutions

9 Confidence in the Application Process Applicants (and their advisers) need to be confident that: Applications are properly considered by appropriately skilled or qualified staff There is clarity about how long decisions will take Interviews are conducted professionally, by trained staff and for a clear purpose Feedback is provided to unsuccessful applicants on request Offers are clear and easily understood

10 Admissions Policies – whats the point? Transparency in admissions policies - John Denham (DIUS, England), April 2008: We have to look for … measures that will reassure the public… based on the fundamental principle that universities decide whom they should admit. The answer lies… in openness, transparency and accountability. It lies in each university having a published admissions policy; being able to show that it has measures in hand to equip all those involved in admissions to implement the policy accurately and fairly; and in each university being able to assure itself that this is being done. English policy statement – but of interest across UK

11 Good Practice: Admissions Policies A high level statement demonstrating how the policies support the achievement of the institutions mission and strategic plans, how they inform the operational aims and show commitment to applicants. Provide a source of good quality information and detail on all aspects of an institutions admissions policies and procedures, transparent and helpful to a variety of audiences but mainly to the applicant and their advisors, as well as to the institutions own staff. When reviewing admissions policies HE providers should note: the QAA Code of Practice, Section 10, on admissions to higher education (Sept 2006) to ensure policies comply with its precepts, the SPA Admissions Policies Guidance, available at -

12 Good Practice: Admissions Policies Background – Schwartz Report - Principle 1 stated: A fair admissions system should be transparent Purpose of the admissions policy and connected legal and responsibility issues Admissions Policy: Structure and audience; Language; Transparency, accessibility and dissemination Admissions Policy - content, approval, responsibilities and monitoring Includes: high level statement, strategic framework, policy approval, issues in considering applications (at institution, course and at both levels) and information for applicants Support and training for admissions staff Qualifications – institution policies

13 Considering applications Establish clear criteria against which an application is considered Record decisions on individual applications in a structured way When asked you, or colleagues, can easily give a reason The applicant can reflect on your reasons and improve his/her subsequent applications Remember – the decision to admit is still yours

14 Feedback – and transparency1 Entry criteria. How are decisions reached e.g. are experience, qualifications, motivation, interview etc. factors in deciding who gets an offer? Contextual data. Are other factors taken into account e.g. a questionnaire after they apply, numeracy test for those without Standard level Maths, school performance? Holistic assessment. How important are these factors in relation to qualifications? Information. How do you inform potential applicants, applicants and/or their advisers about entry criteria and feedback?

15 Feedback – and transparency2 More transparency will give applicants greater understanding of what is required It might, however, give them more opportunity to question decisions if they closely match the criteria. Applicants and advisors can see what contextual data has been used, and the relative importance of this information in making the decision BUT a good audit trail/ record keeping as to how the individual decision has been reached should help in giving feedback Timescales – is this information clear in the information given to applicants? Complaints and appeals – is this process transparent to applicants and staff?

16 Who does what? In the interest of transparency and consistency everyone involved in the applicant process needs to be clear about each stage within their institution – For example, do you know.. Who should the first point of contact be for course enquiries? Who deals with applications services (eg UCAS) in your institution? What is the role of an admissions tutor? Does your institute have admissions tests or interviews?

17 Electronic Feedback to unsuccessful HE applicants SPA had significant input into the UCAS development of an electronic feedback system through Track. Two options of electronic feedback are now available: Option 1: Coding linked with a reject decision – An institution devised code which would generate text of a standard sentence or paragraphs or possibly free text, which the applicant would view as a letter on Track.

18 Electronic Feedback continued… Option 2: Amended reject decision - On request from the applicant, the HEI sends feedback via UCAS using a standard sentence/ paragraph, or free text as a new amended reject decision. (Prior to applicant making response to offers) These codes are institution specific codes, devised by each HEI, and generate institution specific text for the applicant on UCAS Track. Text would need to be reviewed by the HEI on an annually basis Use of these via UCAS would be an optional tool for HEIs

19 Work on feedback issues SPA and UCAS UCAS and SPA worked on JISC Scoping Study and now on EFIFA: Good practice in the provision of feedback to applicants, and in the use of technology to support this (March 2007). Importance of having good feedback statements - clear and helpful, while recognising the pressures on your time and resources SPA Good Practice Statement on Feedback February 2008

20 Conclusions and way forward Development of transparent policies and feedback are part of the evolving and increasingly complex area of decision making Clear policies and feedback are part of customer care/service and good practice Good Entry Profiles and clear and concise admissions policies etc. will help to overcome any perceptions of unfairness Statement of good practice on feedback and admissions policies can be found on the SPA website Each HEI will need to review policies and procedures in an effort to adhere to good practice guidelines

21 Thank you – any questions or comments for SPA or to raise with colleagues here today? More information from: or

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