Our response to the UCAS consultation on its Qualification Information Review

Our response to the UCAS consultation on its Qualification Information Review

In 2011, UCAS (the organisation responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the UK) reviewed the qualifications information needs of schools, colleges, higher education institutions, advisers and applicants to higher education.  It then proposed the development of a new shared qualifications information service and launched a consultation which closed on 16 April 2012. 

As a research-based organisation, we believe that universities should have access to additional information to make better informed offers to candidates. The value assigned to qualifications is the ultimate measure of comparability in the current system and should therefore reflect real differences in a clear and transparent way. However, any new method for comparing particular qualifications must be robust yet understandable to its users. 

Cambridge Assessment's response to UCAS’ consultation addresses:

  • the need for change: we welcome the consultation and we have previously emphasised the issue of 'information loss' when grades are added together into the tariff score.  Our research  suggests that the A Level UMS scores are a good predictor of performance in higher education. 
  • demands analysis methods: the proposed method - an adaptation of the Complexity-Resources-Abstractness and Strategy (CRAS) framework - for reforming the Tariff system is not suitable because it does not properly assess whole qualifications. 
  • workload/costs/expertise: we question whether the high cost of creating such a system is a good use of money 
  • Guided Learning Hours (GLH): the inclusion of GLH bears little relation to real time 
  • impact on innovation: there is a danger that in requiring qualifications to be sufficiently similar to be considered equivalent, while also being sufficiently different to be considered necessary, innovation will be held back.

The role of awarding bodies in the design and development of any qualifications information system will be fundamental to its success.  Our UK exam board, OCR, and our international arm, Cambridge International Examinations, also submitted responses to the UCAS consultation.

CRAS was developed in the 1990s by researchers at UCLES (now Cambridge Assessment) to measure the demand of individual exam questions. It does not, however, properly assess whole qualifications.  

Our researchers published recommendations for potential users of CRAS in the June 2011 issue of Research Matters.

Our Group Chief Executive Simon Lebus highlights the risks of adapting an existing methodology which was created for a different purpose in the 4-minute film below. 

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