A recent study conducted by the Sutton Trust has revealed that thousands of students across the country are at a significant disadvantage when applying to university because of inaccurate and unreliable advice from their teachers.

According to the most recent study, there is a notable discrepancy between what university admissions tutors believe makes a good UCAS application and the opinions of teachers concerning the same issue.

Citing a specific example, the study reveals that only 10 out of 44 personal statements were given the same grade by both teachers and admissions tutors, demonstrating the inconsistency that consequently affects pupils’ applications.

“I think without the advice of my teachers, I would have had no idea what to write in my personal statement”

Contrastingly, second year Management student Lottie Smith describes her experience of applying to The University of Nottingham as a positive one and says the advice she received from her teachers adequately reflected the requirements of the University’s admissions tutors.

She told Impact: “I think without the advice of my teachers, I would have had no idea what to write in my personal statement. It was only thanks to their guidance that my application was successful”.

Sutton Trust, founded in 1977, aims to eradicate educational inequality and break the link between academic opportunity and family background; their focus on three areas – programmes, research and advocacy – has led to the development of summer schools, research studies and initiatives that have had a governmental impact, as they seek to increase educational attainment particularly amongst poorer communities.

“Controversially, the Sutton Trust holds universities responsible for the unreliable advice that students are given”

Controversially, the Sutton Trust holds universities responsible for the unreliable advice that students are given. It calls on higher education institutions to give clearer guidelines over what they expect from prospective students, especially concerning personal statements, in order to minimise the disadvantage applicants experience.

However, The University of Nottingham is already taking steps to prevent this inconsistency and provide applicants with the best advice possible.

The specific Schools and Colleges Liaison team maintains close links with local schools and regularly attends higher education fairs across the United Kingdom.

Additionally, a specific workshop is run by members of the University’s academic staff which focuses on producing personal statements, enabling students to develop an understanding of exactly what admissions tutors are looking for and attempting to alleviate confusion or disadvantage.

“Only 5% of the poorest pupils successfully applied to a Russell Group University”

This issue is particularly prevalent as it coincides with a Department of Education study revealing the widening gap between the rich and poor students attending university: only 5% of the poorest pupils successfully applied to a Russell Group university, compared to 12% of their wealthier peers.

This highlights the need for all academic institutions to work harder than ever to bring about educational equality.

Laura Hanton

Image: Stephen Dann via Flickr

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