Closed schools, changed matriculation exam dates, canceled oral and international exams. We have to admit that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on this year’s high school graduates. Especially those who dream of studying in the United Kingdom. Will COVID-19 make them change their current plans for studying at a university in England?
How COVID-19 will affect the reality of high school graduates and universities in Great Britain
Yes, the last few months have been exceptionally stressful for high school graduates. First, there was uncertainty about the matriculation exam dates, and then the concern about how its outcome would affect the application process for their dream university in the United Kingdom. From the perspective of high school graduates, the three most important changes turned out to be:
- postponing the matriculation exams from early May to the end of June (8-29 June),
- cancellation of oral exams and international matriculation exams,
- shifting the announcement of matriculation exam results to late summer (after 11th August).
Will the changes forced by COVID-19 mean that Polish high school graduates will lose the chance to continue their education at the best universities in Great Britain? Contrary to initial concerns regarding undergraduate admissions to England, there will be little change, and every high school graduate will still be able to apply to their dream university.
Let’s start by acknowledging that simply postponing the matriculation exam dates in Poland doesn’t change much. British universities are also not likely to make any issues about the later-than-usual announcement of matriculation exam results. Scans of the diploma and their sworn translations can be sent later, probably until the end of August.
The cancellation of oral exams also does not pose a problem when applying for undergraduate studies in the United Kingdom. They have never had significant importance in the recruitment process. The results of the written matriculation exams have always been the primary focus in the recruitment process, so in this regard, nothing changes.
Moreover, universities in the United Kingdom fully recognize the results of the Polish matriculation exams. In this case, the cancellation of international matriculation exams also does not diminish the chances of studying in England. What about IB Diploma candidates? Instead of matriculation exam results, which will not take place, they will receive grades based on coursework, predicted grades, and subject grades. The deadline for announcing grades is July 5, 2020. Importantly, universities in the United Kingdom are aware of these changes and will prepare the undergraduate admissions process with these aspects in mind.
What does recruitment for studies in Great Britain look like during the COVID-19 pandemic?
First and foremost, universities in the United Kingdom have not changed the deadline for the admission process itself. The admission process will last until June 30th, after which UCAS Clearing, the supplementary recruitment process, will begin. On the other hand, the pandemic has forced the adjustment of key dates to the current situation. What does this mean?
The deadline by which a university in England was supposed to make an offer or reject a candidate’s application has been moved from May 6 to May 20, 2020 (for applicants who applied to universities by January 15, 2020).
In turn, a candidate who received responses from universities by March 31, 2020, can choose a firm choice and insurance choice until June 18, 2020 (instead of May 5, 2020).
What about English language certificates?
One of the conditions for admission to a university in England is proficient communication in the English language. For this reason, many high school graduates were considering taking English language exams like IELTS, CAE, or TOEFL, which would confirm their proficiency in English. And universities looked very favorably upon candidates who obtained such a certificate.
Currently, some universities are waiving the requirement for language exams such as IELTS. Instead, high school graduates will be able to take online tests like Duolingo, which is a much cheaper option. The IELTS exam costs over 700 PLN, while the Duolingo test costs only 49 dollars. Importantly, an increasing number of universities in the United Kingdom are opting for this approach.
Deadlines for applying for a tuition loan
The universities in the United Kingdom have maintained the deadline for applications for the Tuition Fee Loan. The first deadline (known as “best before”) is May 22, 2020. Of course, you can apply for the tuition fee loan even after this date. Importantly, from May 4, 2020, you can already send registered letters to the United Kingdom, so applying for the tuition fee loan should not be a major problem.
What will studying in the UK look like during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Even if the undergraduate admissions process in the United Kingdom goes smoothly, there still remains a question about the organization of the academic year. As of now, universities are closed, and classes are being conducted online. And what will the situation look like in the next academic year?
Indeed, much depends on the course of the pandemic, and currently, it is difficult to predict how the situation will change by autumn. One can assume that universities in the United Kingdom will opt for one of the two possible solutions.
Firstly, if the reopening of universities in England is not feasible, the first semester of learning will be conducted online. This is the way classes are currently being conducted, and universities in England have significant experience in this regard. Such a solution will allow the start of the academic year in the standard term, regardless of the circumstances.
Another solution would be to delay the start of the academic year by a few weeks or months. In this case, the learning process would occur as it did before the outbreak of the pandemic, but the semester would begin slightly later. As a result, the summer vacation of 2021 would be shorter to ensure the start of the next academic year in the standard term.
We have to admit that the coronavirus pandemic has introduced a lot of uncertainty into the lives of this year’s high school graduates. The most important information, however, is that universities in the United Kingdom are well aware of the situation and are doing everything they can to adapt to it. There is no need to give up on the dream of pursuing undergraduate studies in England. COVID-19 doesn’t have to stand in the way of achieving top-level education.