Cambridge fears proposed new UCAS tariff will not work

16 April 2012

UCAS is using the “wrong tool for the job” in reforming its Tariff system, claims Cambridge Assessment today, possibly damaging the chances of students going to the right university.

In its response to UCAS’ consultation on its Qualification Information Review [which closed today, 16 April 2012], the organisation casts serious doubt on the model to assess the ‘academic demand’ of qualifications. 

The proposed method – an adaptation of the Complexity, Resources, Abstractness and Strategy model (CRAS) – is flawed. CRAS was designed to assess the level of demand of individual exam questions. It does not properly assess whole qualifications. Cambridge Assessment’s own research has identified, other, more useful models but it cautions that further research is required to create a robust and understandable method. 

Sylvia Green, Director of Research at Cambridge Assessment, said: "As a research based organisation we believe that universities should have access to additional information to make better informed offers to candidates. But UCAS is proposing to use the wrong tool for the job. It is not enough to adapt an existing methodology that is not fit for purpose.

The Group, which manages Cambridge University’s three exam boards, also questions whether the high cost of creating such a system is a good use of money in the current economic climate. "Having conducted demands analyses in comparability studies ourselves, we estimate it would cost in the region of one million pounds to carry out the analysis of just one exam board’s A Levels. Universities need to consider whether the information delivered by any analysis about qualifications would be sufficiently rigorous to warrant this level of expenditure," continued Sylvia Green.