Update on university applicants and admissions

Dear colleague,

The last week has been quite extraordinary for university applicants, their parents and everyone working in schools, colleges and universities. I therefore want to provide an update on our response to the changes to A-level grading and how it impacts on our admissions and plans for next year.

As many of you will be aware, this year's A-level results were determined by an algorithm, which meant that up to 40 percent of A-level students received lower grades than their teachers' assessments, which caused a lot of disappointment and anxiety. I know that many colleagues will have children or relatives who are applying to university this year and will have felt this acutely.

The Government has now changed its position on A-level, AS and GCSE results and has said that students will be awarded the centre assessment grades that teachers submitted for them. This is all explained by Ofqual.

At Sheffield, we are committed to the fairest and most responsible recruitment and admissions practices to ensure that students have the opportunity to study on the courses that are right for them.

Since Thursday, our central and department-based admissions teams have been working tirelessly to be as flexible as possible in supporting applicants, and we will continue to do so. This has meant that we have already accepted many applicants who were awarded lower grades than they had expected. In particular, we have prioritised students from less advantaged backgrounds and under-represented groups who want to study at Sheffield.

The Government has now lifted the cap on student numbers that it set in May this year, meaning that we can accept more students who meet the terms of their original offer. However, some courses (such as medicine) do have strict capacity constraints and so, for some applicants, we may need to guarantee deferred entry to September 2021 instead of offering a place this year. Our approach to admissions is explained on our study web-pages. In planning our courses for the next academic year, we also have to consider a variety of other factors such as allowing adequate space for social distancing on campus. Our teams are considering all of this very carefully to ensure that we can give students the best possible experience next year and also maintain safety for both staff and students.

I want to thank everyone across the University who has worked so hard on student recruitment and admissions this year. Your hard work and dedication has meant that we have been able to make offers to high-achieving applicants from the UK and overseas.

In the coming days and weeks we will be digesting what our current student recruitment position means for our overall financial outlook. I know that many of you will have questions about how this impacts on some of the work we have been doing around strengthening finances and we will update all staff on this as soon as we are able to.

Thank you again for your hard work and absolute dedication to providing the best outcomes for students. With you, I look forward to welcoming our new cohort of students next term as they begin their studies and the next stages of their lives.

Best wishes

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor