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15th August 2020

Exeter College, the 2020 A-levels process, and Admissions: An Update

At Exeter College we share the widespread concern that the process by which this year’s A-level grades have been decided may have unfairly disadvantaged candidates from less advantaged backgrounds.  Exeter College strives to attract academically excellent applicants from all backgrounds, and we are committed to ensuring that our undergraduate population is admitted solely on the basis of academic achievement and potential, and that we select from the broadest possible applicant pool.

This is why Exeter College, in common with almost all third-level institutions, does not take an algorithmic approach to its admissions.  Every year when we receive the exam grades of offer-holders at our college we carefully assess the individual circumstances of every offer-holder who had missed their grades, including revisiting all their application materials, performance in admissions tests, and interviews, to see if there are exceptional mitigating circumstances that would justify admitting them anyway: a process known as ‘clemency’.  This also involves gathering as much information as possible from the candidates and their schools regarding the circumstance of their examination grades, and detailed discussions with the admitting tutors, and the departments and faculties that will be teaching them to ensure consistent and fair treatment of every individual.

The exceptional circumstances of this year have made that process even more important than ever.  In the light of concerns regarding the process by which “grades” have been awarded and moderated we sought and obtained additional data on the grades that the offer-holders’ own schools and assessment centres had awarded them.  That data was combined with all the other information we have on each individual candidate from our applications process.

Following this process, we are pleased to announce that Exeter College will admit all UK offer-holders.  We are a small college and in a normal year we admit 98 students.  This year, we will be admitting 110 students, having granted ‘clemency’ to a record number of students based on their individual circumstances.  One additional UK offer-holder’s place is deferred until 2021 because of University-level capacity constraints on their course.  This set of outcomes has come about thanks to close collaboration and consultation with other colleges, with faculties and departments, and with the central University who all play key roles in the admissions process.  The result is that this will be the most diverse undergraduate intake the college will have ever had in terms of socioeconomic indicators of disadvantage.

We wish that all our candidates would have had the opportunity to take their exams and demonstrate their ability in normal circumstances.  Unfortunately, we are not living in normal times.  The college continues to respond appropriately to events as they arise, and we remain committed to attracting and admitting students of high academic achievement and potential, wherever and from whatever background they come from.

Updated 17 August 2020

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