An increasing number of university applicants in the UK have an expanding range of secondary level qualifications; many of these are vocational in nature.

Numbers from the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) from 2015 show that just 63% of 18 year old applicants applied with the traditional three general, academic ‘A level’ subjects.

The rise in applicants possessing vocational qualifications poses a challenge for university admissions staff, who often lack in-depth knowledge of these qualifications. More applicants now also study a mixture of academic and vocational subjects. The vocational qualifications landscape in the UK is complex and is changing with the introduction of Tech Levels, applied general qualifications, and the expansion of apprenticeships. Variations also exist in the types of qualifications available within the UK, with Scottish qualifications in particular differing from the rest of the UK.

The image below illustrates broadly the possible progression pathways for upper secondary qualifications.

The UCAS Progression pathways project aims to improve higher education institutions’ understanding of the non-academic qualifications landscape to ensure candidates are admitted to appropriate higher education courses, based on suitable entrance qualifications. A range of information and advice tools (including case studies, videos, an animation and an interactive online tool, plus a report) have been made available on the UCAS website. These tools target learners, parents, university admissions staff and academic staff.

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