The University receives over 20,000 applications per year through UCAS for over 300 courses. These are received from September onwards of the previous year but the vast majority arrive in the period mid-November ?late January. Bearing in mind that the average number of choices per candidate is around two, the 20,000+ applications are generated by just over 10,000 applicants.
Direct application forms are also received from students who wish to enrol as credit-earning or non-credit-earning visiting students and also from those wishing to transfer within the University. Applications for courses in the School of Nursing and Midwifery are submitted direct to the School, which has its own Registry Unit.
The University operates a centralised undergraduate admissions system based on the Admissions Office. While the Marketing, Recruitment and Communications Directorate (MR&C) has overall responsibility for marketing and recruitment activities, it is expected that the Admissions Office will continue to carry out most of its current schools liaison activities and to act as a central point of contact for enquiries relating to admission to the University. One of the major objectives of the Office is to deal quickly, efficiently and fairly with applications and to provide the best possible service to candidates.
2. Setting target numbers
The number of full-time undergraduate students which the University can admit is currently controlled by a government-imposed overall limit referred to as the MaSN (Maximum Student Number). Additional limitations are imposed for courses such as Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Social Work, where numbers are controlled by professional or regulatory bodies. Within the overall total, quotas for individual Schools are set by the University Management Board on the recommendation of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education and Planning) in consultation with the Head of Planning and the Head of Admissions, taking into account factors such as the demand for places, the teaching capacity of Schools and the restrictions placed by the professional bodies referred to above. The Director of Marketing, Recruitment and Communications also has an input to the process.
3. Major steps in the UCAS process
(a) Admissions criteria are decided in October at the beginning of the UCAS cycle and are based on a review of the previous intake and also likely numbers for the following year.
(b) The batches of forms are checked on receipt from UCAS and anomalies investigated.
(c) Applications are acknowledged by way of a Why Queen?? brochure which now contains a letter from the Vice-Chancellor for the information of parents. The brochure also provides information about the new fee arrangements.
(d) The forms are then vetted by the Admissions Office to highlight any points of note, particularly in the personal statement and the school/college report.
(e) Applications from candidates with disability/special needs are held out for fast-tracking where possible. Procedures have been agreed with the Occupational Health Service and the Disability Services Unit (see Appendix 1). These procedures are followed for all applicants except those who have either declared difficulties with mobility or those who have applied for Medicine, Dentistry or Pharmacy, where there may be health and safety or fitness to practice implications.
(f) Applications from candidates who have indicated a criminal conviction are followed up in accordance with agreed guidelines. These are currently under review.
(g) Special action is taken in relation to Social Work applications and candidates are asked for permission to share information with the University of Ulster, if appropriate, in order to ensure that, so far as possible, each candidate only provides one 600 word statement and is interviewed only once, regardless of the number of Social Work courses in Northern Ireland for which they have applied (see para 5). This procedure has been agreed with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC).
(h) Decisions are made in conjunction with academic selectors and these are then conveyed electronically to UCAS for transmission to candidates.
(i) Follow-up activities, designed to encourage candidates who receive offers to accept them, are the responsibility of individual schools although the Admissions Office provides information as required.
(j) After the deadline for candidates to respond to any offers they have received, a pack of information (June Pack), including a Student Accommodation Handbook and details of procedures in August, is despatched to all candidates holding offers with the University (see paragraph 7). Packs are sent on an individual basis to late candidates.
(k) Candidates holding offers for Medicine and Dentistry are contacted for permission to carry out a POCVA check (the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (NI) Order) and also about a Hepatitis B test. POCVA checks are carried out by the Criminal Record Unit of the PSNI with reference as appropriate to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS). The POCVA check replaces the former Criminal Record check as from 2006 entry.
(l) The names and addresses of candidates who accept offers for Social Work are provided to NISCC so that registration packs can be sent to them. Students cannot enrol on the course without successfully registering with the NISCC.
(m) Following the release of the A Level and other results in August, decisions are made on applications by Admissions Office staff and selectors and transmitted formally to UCAS (Confirmation Stage).
(n) Applications for changed-course offers and clearing applications are processed, subject to the availability of places.
(o) Application forms are sent to school managers for enrolment appointments and returned to the Admissions Office within an agreed timescale.
(p) A Welcome Pack is prepared by the Office and despatched to students who accept offers formally through UCAS.
4. Decision making process
The administrative staff in the Admissions Office work closely with school selectors in the decision making process. The vast majority of decisions are made by Admissions Office staff although there is consultation with selectors in non-routine cases. The Admissions Office staff are therefore a crucial part of the selection process and can ensure consistency in the application of admissions criteria. This is very important in the Northern Ireland context where the University? procedures are well known by schools and colleges who seek clarification of decisions which may not be clear to them.
5. Selection Criteria
In the interests of consistency and transparency, selection criteria must be objective.
For the majority of courses, academic qualifications are the main criterion and performance at GCSE and AS Level may be taken into account, particularly in the case of high demand courses. However, the selection process for Social Work is more complex and additional criteria such as a 600 word statement and an interview are used. Some other courses such as Architecture, Medicine and Dentistry may interview some candidates if commitment is in doubt. The academic criteria are clearly stated in the coursefinder in the Undergraduate Prospectus and also on the web.
An appeals procedure has been introduced for candidates who wish to appeal against decisions on their applications (see Appendix 2).
7. June Pack
All candidates who hold offers with the University are provided with a pack of information at the end of June/early July. The pack contains a student accommodation handbook and application form and also detailed information about procedures in August and the means of contacting the Office in the event of queries. They are provided with a change of course enquiry form for use in August if they fail to meet the standards required for their original courses and wish to be considered for alternatives. Sample packs are held in the Office.
8. Confirmation and Clearing in August/September
The University receives A Level results before they are released to candidates and every effort is made to have the bulk of decisions available before candidates receive their results. These decisions are again made in conjunction with the academic selectors and strict deadlines have to be observed. Candidates who are unsuccessful in gaining admission to courses of their choice are frequently considered for alternative courses and it is possible to help many students in this way. Changed course offers are made and this avoids the need to participate in the Clearing scheme. Those who have not held offers with Queen? and wish to be considered are dealt with through Clearing.
Decisions are conveyed to candidates as quickly as possible. They are posted on the University? website for Queen?, Stranmillis University College and the University of Ulster on the morning on which the A Level results are published. They are updated twice daily. As from 2006, schools and colleges will be able to view the decisions for their candidates by name, using a password provided by the University. Acceptances are also published in the local newspapers. Details of vacancies are published on the Queen? website, the UCAS website and the national press.
The Admissions Office opens for telephone calls all day on the Thursday and Friday after the publication of results. Thereafter, it is open in the afternoons for either telephone or personal callers and every effort is made to provide as much guidance as possible to candidates. On the Monday afternoon after the publication of results, there is an advice session in the Whitla Hall. A separate session is held for Medical and Dental applicants.
The centralised admissions system enables staff to advise candidates about possible changed course offers since they have knowledge of the vacancies across the full range of subjects.
9. Welcome Packs
After the deadline for UCAS decisions, application forms are sent to the school offices for enrolment appointments. They are then returned to the Admissions Office where Welcome Packs of information are prepared and despatched during the first few days of September. The Packs contain documents relating to registration, welcome and orientation and other relevant matters. A sample of the Pack is held in the Admissions Office. The Welcome Pack has been redesigned for 2006 entry and a number of items previously included in the Pack are now handed out at enrolment and registration.
Statistical information is provided to senior administrators and schools at several points in the cycle. The principal sets of statistics are produced after the 15 January closing date and at the June list stage, by which time the majority of students will have chosen their firm and insurance choices. Statistics are produced on a regular basis in August providing details of acceptances in both student number and FTE format. In mid-September, a final estimate of the intake is provided from the admissions file. The next statistics are produced from SIS at the end of October, after students have registered. Statistics are also produced as required throughout the year.
11. Policy Matters
The Office works with selected academic colleagues and others to prepare the policies on the attitude of the University to new initiatives such as Admissions Tests and also on new qualifications such as National Awards and recommendations are prepared for the Access and Entrance Sub-Group or the University Management Board as appropriate.
12. Schools visits/ careers conventions
Admissions Office staff give talks about higher education in general, Queen? in particular and the UCAS system, to the majority of sixth forms every year and also to parents?meetings from time to time. There is increasing demand for talks to fifth formers which explore the options open to students after GCSE and how these can be a preparation for higher education. It is hoped to extend these talks in the future if more resources are available.
The Office is also represented at all the major careers exhibitions in Northern Ireland and also a number in the Irish Republic. From time to time, members of academic staff also attend. Talks are also given to students in the border counties by Admissions Office staff. With the establishment of the Marketing, Research and Communications Directorate, responsibility for the Open Days, the Belfast Telegraph lectures for sixth formers and the Conference of the University Advisers of Studies and Schools?Careers Advisers (the March Conference) has been assumed by the new Directorate with an Admissions Office input as appropriate.
13. International students
While international students are also required to apply through UCAS, efforts are made to fast-track decisions.
(a) Admissions Office staff are responsible for deciding on the equivalence of qualifications and those whose first language is not English are required to achieve an acceptable score in IELTS or TOEFL.
(b) All offers made to international students are conditional upon fulfilment of financial arrangements which include the payment of international fees. Information is contained in the Undergraduate Prospectus and is also included in the June Pack for those who accept our offers.
(c) Certificates of acceptance are produced when the academic conditions have been fulfilled and are posted, along with other relevant information, to international students to enable them to fulfil visa requirements. They may also be faxed or sent by courier if time is short.
(d) Information is also included in the June Pack about the orientation programme for international students as are details of the possible ways of paying fees.
(e) Students who embark on collaborative programmes overseas do not apply through UCAS but use special application forms produced by the Admissions Office.
14. Part-time day-time study
Suitably qualified candidates can be considered for admission to undergraduate degree courses by part-time day-time study. Teaching is normally spread over the week and is not available in blocks or by day-release. The same entrance requirements apply as for the full-time options. Applications are made on a direct application form, available from the Admissions Office, and are processed by the Admissions Office using the same criteria as those for full-time students.
15. BA Degree by part-time evening study
Candidates can also apply for admission to the BA Degree by part-time study where lectures are held in the evenings. Entrance requirements are lower than for day-time study and are a minimum of 5 GCSE passes at Grade C or better. Enquiries should be referred to the School of Education (Lifelong Learning).
16. Internal transfers
The Admissions Office is involved in some internal transfers and has drawn up, in conjunction with academic colleagues, revised procedures to take account of the new academic structure. Details are enclosed (Appendix 3).