For the first time, prospective students applying to UK universities are being given the opportunity to detail their personal circumstances on their UCAS form. This means they are able to disclose if they have anything they want to be taken into consideration before applying to specific universities. The change has been introduced for everyone applying to university for the 2023-24 academic year, meaning wider access and opportunities for many more students than before.
Previously, applicants would have to contact universities individually to ask what provisions they have in place, particularly if they were a carer. Students with caring responsibilities had been put off applying by the lack of flexibility regarding their situation. Now, potential university starters can detail their circumstances on the UCAS form, allowing universities to put provisions in place before the term starts.
This is excellent for students and universities, as it opens access to people from all backgrounds and circumstances. A wide range of support can be given, from financial to health, both physical and mental. For carers in particular, this could be helping with managing deadlines or fitting their coursework around other responsibilities.
A caring obligation doesn’t have to be long-term to qualify for support. It could be a temporary situation or something that only requires support at specific times. UCAS has recommended that students declare their circumstances on their application, regardless of whether they think they qualify or not. Universities can then make an informed decision about whether they can offer help rather than assuming there are no extra needs.
This change to the UCAS application form shows that access to higher education really is paramount in the minds of universities- there should be no barriers to learning. This all helps to create a more inclusive environment on campus with a wider range of voices and backgrounds.