Applicants to the Helena Kennedy Foundation’s Higher Education Awards bursary scheme are awaiting the imminent outcomes of their applications.
The winners of the bursaries, which include 13 university badged bursaries plus 8 other badged bursaries, will be announced this week (week beginning 24th August).
The HE Awards bursaries are for current or former students at further education colleges, who have faced significant barriers to their education, and provide them with financial support during their time at university. They amount to £2250, spread over three years.
Applicants received their results for A-Levels or equivalent qualifications on Thursday 13th August. In the absence of exams this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will have endured a few days of uncertainty after receiving their results.
The results of many students were initially downgraded by the Ofqual algorithm, which aimed to standardise A-Level results across the country in the absence of exams. As part of the calculation for determining students’ results, this algorithm took into account a centre’s overall exams performance in previous years – with controversial effects. Many argued that, by doing this, the algorithm had a disproportionate negative effect on students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As such, there was a good chance that some of the HE Awards applicants had their results downgraded.
The government then made a ‘U-turn’ on Monday 17th August, announcing that grades estimated by teachers would stand as students’ official A-Level results. Students were given the choice of whether to take forward their teacher-estimated grades, or the grades calculated by the algorithm, depending on which were higher.
This U-turn gives the Foundation’s bursary applicants an improved chance of being accepted into the universities to which they applied. As a consequence of the U-turn however, improvement in the grades of large numbers of students due to the u-turn has created a headache for university admissions. In some cases, university courses had already been filled according to the initial algorithm-calculated results, meaning students whose teacher-estimated grades were higher could miss out on their chosen course and/or institution.
Indeed, some universities have warned that these students may be forced to defer their entry until 2021, as they do not have the capacity for them this year.
2020 has been a strange year and this is a difficult situation for the HE Awards bursary applicants. The Helena Kennedy Foundation hopes that both the winners of the HE Awards and all other applicants are able to progress on to higher education in the 2020/21 academic year and be successful, in spite of the challenges of the last few months.
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