Huge amount of work put into ucas track this year: nicola dandridge

A "huge amount of work" has been put in to ensure the UCAS Track website does not crash on A-level results day this year, according to Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge.

Last year, UCAS Track crashed and was offline for several hours as students tried to find out whether they had been accepted into their choice of university. But Dandridge is confident the frustrating situation will not be repeated this year.

"It was really difficult last year, though UCAS did rectify the position pretty quickly," said Dandridge. "This year they have done a huge amount of work to make sure it doesn't happen again, including using the cloud, employing far more people and investing in their IT."

"I think everyone is reasonably confident the same problems won't arise."

Some contingency plans are in place this time around, to offset any problems with the website itself. "Remember that UCAS will be sending out an email to all students first thing Thursday morning, letting you know whether you have your university place or not," Dandridge added.

Dandridge was speaking in a live question and answer session on The Student Room. The Universities UK chief executive answered questions from TSR users on a number of different topics. Read on for some of the highlights from the Q&A session and see the rest of the topics discussed in the main Q&A forum.

In Scotland you get into university based on what grades you actually get rather than predicted grades. Will the system in the rest of the UK be changed?

On the face of it may feel as if it makes sense to apply on the basis of actual rather than predicted grades, but it is not actually that straightforward. You are right and there has just been a review of this issue by schools and universities and the decision has been that in England the system of predicted grades will stay. The main point here is that universities do not only take grades into account when deciding who to admit - it is a much more rounded exercise that takes into account a whole range of information (eg personal statement etc), and moving to actual grades could undermine that.

Check out the TSR guide to results day, Clearing and Adjustment

What will be done to ensure that state educated pupils are not at a disadvantage to private school students when applying to university under the new AAB+ system?

This is a really difficult issue and we are all concerned that the new AAB system does not disadvantage students from state schools. However the most selective universities generally do not just use A level results to determine admissions, largely because the school you go to can have such an impact on grades. Universities take a whole range of information into account, beyond grades, so that they can identify potential not just school background. This is something universities have been doing for years, and is necessary if universities are to seek out the most able applicants.

What do you make of the news that half of students think tuition fees must be paid up front?

There has been confusion about this but universities and schools have been doing a huge amount of work to get the message out there that students do not need to pay up front. I think the message is now being heard - and the fact that numbers of applicants to university this year are broadly holding up (1% percentage point dip in numbers from 18 year olds) shows that people are still applying (an even smaller dip amongst students from poorer backgrounds). It's a difficult issue and clearly we need to just carry on making the same points until everyone does understand that fees do not need to be paid up front. Universities UK is taking this issue very seriously.

Do you think there should be regulations to prevent floods of graduates in certain subjects/fields and more courses in areas which have deficits of qualified young people?

Generally, university degrees are not pegged to specific jobs and equip graduates for a whole range of jobs. And at the end of the day it is up to students to choose which course they are interested and want to study. You are right that there is an issue about good quality careers advice, but the Key Information Set being introduced this autumn will set out more clearly what the graduate prospects are for each individual course, so that should help.