Director's blog

​​​​​​Director's Blog, July 2020


At the University of Gloucestershire, we continue to support our students and future students as they prepare to join us on campus and enrol as first year students​ in September. While much uncertainty remains, we encourage everyone to stay positive and plan for their entry in September and beyond.

We are delighted that over 2,000 applicants this year have already put their trust in us and accepted us as Firm choice for entry in September 2020 or January 2021, an increase on last year. Many applicants have applied for their accommodation place on our campuses and are already meeting their future flatmates on social media. They will be able to access our MyGlos platform online to plan for enrolment in September/January including reading lists, online transition resources, links and contact points.

Welcome week will still happen, with social distancing in place. 90%+ of UK Universities plan to start on time in Sept/early Oct 2020 for UK students and have communicated their plans to accordingly. Universities are also planning extensively with timetabling and activities linked to 1m+ social distancing. We are fortunate to have a small class size model for our 10,000 students, on three campuses across Cheltenham and Gloucester, with our larger programmes typically admitting 100 students each year. There is perhaps a clear case for universities like us which are structured on a more “human scale”. We publish regular updates on our response to COVID19 for future and current students ​​on our website.

There is a clear steer from UCAS and the HE sector for students to make a F/I choice, to at least have a place in the bag. I support this in addition to a plan B and Plan C for September entry. In my view, deferral to 2021 on balance is not a good idea and applying may in fact be more competitive in 2021 and lead to 18 months of no learning in school/college before enrolment. There is also no evidence that deferral leads to better outcomes, despite a recent story in The Times suggesting otherwise (the data was flawed and self-selecting).

The Government has re-introduced a Student Number Control (SNC) “Cap” on each HEI in England, with added complications for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. English universities will be able to bid for a share of 10,000 additional places in Teaching, Nursing and Allied Heath, Science and Engineering, which will be confirmed during this month. We have already been awarded additional places on Teacher Training for our BEd​ Hons as a result of higher demand, support from partner schools on placements and our recognised high quality.

At the University of Gloucestershire, we will have places in UCAS Clearing and applications are welcome from now and around 13th August when results are published. Places will be limited to our SNC cap, so we encourage rational, speedy but not rushed decision making.

While the national focus is perhaps fixed on school and college leavers, we are mindful that y12 students will need support to be ready for entry in 2021, who have missed out on physical fairs, Open Days and outreach the second half of this year. My Outreach Team colleagues are working with partner schools and colleges to support them as much as possible with the transition and we also hope that there is some movement from UCAS on the 15th Oct and 15th Jan deadlines this year.

Good luck to everyone this summer, stay positive and safe. We look forward to meeting our new students in September and encourage students who are unplaced in July/August to get in touch. Our Nursing and Allied Health courses will also have January 2021 places available, recruiting mainly from September-December, with added bonus of £5,000 NHS bursaries available.

​​​​​Director's Blog, May 2020

We appreciate the continued uncertainty you are all facing at present following the cancellation of examinations, replaced by calculated grades, online learning and remote contact. Like you we miss the buzz of students on campus and look forward to returning to face to face teaching again.

The April-May period has clarified a number of issues including a confirmation of A level and other results on 13th August and GCSEs on 20th August. The confirmation and clearing period is expected to operate as normal (or the new normal), but with a new Clearing+ service, designed to match unplaced students with appropriate alternatives. I also expect that students taking the opportunity to self-release into clearing will increase this year, as some students change their plans, for example to move closer to home.

The DfE and UK government is also consulting on measures to stabilise admissions for 2020 with an element of student number controls. This is likely to mean that UK universities will be able to admit students up to their projected planned UK/EU student numbers plus 5%. This will allow a degree of stability but will not mean that your students will be denied a place at their chosen university. I expect the majority of universities to be flexible on places as always, in a year already adversely affected by a demographic dip and Brexit. At the University of Gloucestershire, our applications are still up almost 6% and acceptances are on track to beat both 2019 and 2018.

The DfE (and Office for Students, OfS) have also continued to advise against what they describe as “irresponsible" offer making such as arbitrary mass upgrades of conditional offers to an unconditional place, in addition to a further extension of the UCAS decision deadlines to 18th June (normally 5th May for most students in previous years).  I support this move, to allow students time to make their choices in a rational way and not to be bounced into taking an unconditional place as a result of COVID19 but to have trust in both their own abilities and the system of calculated grades. The weekly UCAS data is clearly showing a delay in student decision making for 2020 as a result.

However, students who are ready to make a Firm and Insurance decision should do so, and remember to apply for student finance and accommodation. We are pleased that at the University of Gloucestershire around 85% of or firm accepters have already submitted their Student Finance applications and many have also logged an interest in student accommodation, part of our first year guarantee. If there is any change to the realities of moving into our university halls, we will of course inform our new students over the summer and issue any advance payment refunds.

Our own data is also showing a further increase in applications for postgraduate courses and additional UCAS applications each week as students reshape their graduate, gap year or career plans. We still welcome applications from all these groups. 

A key priority for my colleagues and I at the University of Gloucestershire is to give our future students confidence, hope and aspiration about a September 2020 start and also continue to engage with Y12 students and those in earlier years with online outreach activities. I am concerned that as we protect the NHS and shield our vulnerable citizens we need to recognise that as with the financial crash of 2008-10 it is young people (school, college, university leavers) who are most adversely affected by severe economic downturns, both economically and psychologically. To that end we continue to give our future students and their parents/supporters clear information, via our Covid FAQ pages.

We are also organising virtual open days (including Sunday June 7th - all welcome), interviews (many of our courses like Physiotherapy, Nursing and Teaching require interviews to select candidates) and preparing online content to support the transition to university.

​Virtual Admissions Chat for Teachers, Heads of Sixth and HE Advisers: Wednesday 20th May, 3.30pm – 4:30pm

We are hosting an online Microsoft Teams chat on this and related issues for teachers and advisers on Wed 20th May at 3.30-5pm to share your experiences, post questions and connect with other colleagues. Please register to chat. Everyone is welcome from the adviser and teacher community.

As with our staff and students I am also incredibly impressed with the high levels of support we are all as an education community offering to our neighbours, communities and colleagues at this time. Our students and staff have certainly stepped up this spring with online content, a snapshot is here on our School of Media blog.

Best wishes and we look forward to speaking with you and being in touch over the next few months as the situation evolves. ​

​​​​​​​​​​​Director's Blog, March 2020

COVID 19 and the impact on post-16 learners and university options.

For attention of teachers, advisers and school/college colleagues.

We appreciate the uncertainty you are all facing at present following the cancellation of examinations and the closure of schools and colleges, for most students, on 20th March replaced by online learning and remote contact.

As a governor and parent, I am fully aware that schools and colleges have not closed, students are still learning and teachers are still teaching and setting work.

The uncertainty over calculated grades, and the impact on BTEC, vocational qualifications as well as A levels and GCSEs (and any additional issues in Wales) has caused a high degree of anxiety for you, your students and colleagues. This situation has also affected admissions to university.

The Government, backed by UCAS and many in the UK HE sector have called for a pause on any changes to UCAS admissions offers from 24th March for 14 days, while we await further guidance on how calculated grades would work and any update on timelines for admissions, results and a possible exam/controlled assessment opportunity in the autumn. This pause was in response to a small number of UK universities changing all or most of their conditional offers to unconditional places over a 24-hour period around 19th- 20th March.

I support this move from the government and called for it via my contacts across the UK over the weekend of the 20th March. The FAQs on this issue are below:

At the University of Gloucestershire, we sent a statement to our applicants and offer holders on 23rd March to try and reassure them not to panic and to stay calm about their choices.

There are of course other key questions about September 2020 or January 2021 entry (including whether students will be able to enrol in September) but at present we are strongly encouraging our applicants and offer holders to focus on September entry and to keep preparing and completing any coursework they are due to submit.

We are also organising virtual open days, interviews (many of our courses like Physiotherapy, Nursing and Teaching require interviews to select candidates) and​​ preparing online content to support the transition to university.

At the University of Gloucestershire, we sent a statement ​to our applicants and offer holders on 23rd March to try and reassure them not to panic and to stay calm about their choices.​

Virtual Admissions Chat for​ Teachers, Heads of Sixth and HE Advisers 2nd April 3.30pm.

We are hosting an online zoom call on this and related issues for teachers and advisers on 2nd April at 3.30- 4.10pm to share your experiences, post questions and connect with other colleagues. Everyone is welcome from the adviser and teacher community. There will also be a prize for the brightest and bravest backdrop to your home working environment and special credit to those of you still in school or college. You can join the Zoom call using te link below:

Join Zoom call (2 April at 3.30 - 4.3​0pm)

As with our staff and students I am also incredibly impressed with the high levels of support we are all as an education community offering to our neighbours, communities and colleagues at this time. This spirit is shining as bright as a rainbow as always.

Best wishes and we look forward to speaking with you and being in touch over the next 2-6 months as the situation evolves.

​​​​Director's Blog, January 2020

We wish you a fantastic New Year and hope you have had a restful Christmas break.

I'd like to introduce myself as the new Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions at the University of Gloucestershire. I previously held similar roles at Aston and Buckingham Universities over the last 20 years (and in the North of England before that) and am a member of the UCAS Qualifications Advisory Group and Cambridge Assessment/OCR admissions group amongst others.

I am incredibly proud to be here at Gloucestershire with our green, high spec, safe campuses in Cheltenham and Gloucester, commitment to student experience and teaching excellence. There is real quality here, demonstrated by a high level of student satisfaction, performance and retention along with an award winning commitment to sustainability and environmental awareness.

We are ranked 1st in the UK for sustainability in the latest People and Planet Green league, as featured in the Guardian. Accommodation is guaranteed for all first years who want it, including local students. The Your Future Plan team at the university run an innovative and supportive programme of events and interventions, to support the success and progression of our students who come from all over the UK and beyond.

It's the perfect university on a human scale, with around 10,000 full time students.

With continuous change in the Higher Education sector and at the university, I would like to provide you with regular pertinent updates throughout the academic year, to keep you abreast and support you in your role.

Key updates to start the year include:

  • Reflections on the UCAS cycle for 2019 and predictions for 2020;
  • UUK consultation on the future of admissions – call for evidence;
  • 1st July 2020 – Teachers and Advisers' Conference: Park campus, Cheltenham.​

UCAS applications 2020 and reflections on the 2019 cycle

Early indications from UCAS data suggest a further increase in interest for courses with the early 15th October deadline, with a 4% increase on last year. Medicine and Dentistry are up, which normally has a positive impact on allied health subjects too. We have experienced a significant increase in Nursing, Physiotherapy and related applications at Gloucestershire. Students seem to be more confident in their choices this year. A UCAS embargo prevents us from publishing early application data until after the 15th Jan deadline. However, I predict a small decrease in applications this year, reflecting the demographic dip, but with an increase from outside the EU and a spike in applications after the election as we move to the 15th Jan initial deadline.

I am concerned that applications for Arts and Humanities subjects will be down again this year, similar to the drop in A level and BTEC entries in these subjects in recent years. English Language and Literature A levels are good examples. Gloucestershire is bucking the trend, with our media, digital and creative subjects enjoying strong increases in enrolments this year and applications holding steady. We welcome your views about this issue via

We want to continue to support schools and colleges in promoting a balanced post-16 and GCSE subject choice amongst students, to reflect the fact that the global economy (and the UK in particular) demands general, human skills as well as specialist STEM knowledge. The importance of choosing a subject that ignites passion, enjoyment and exploration is more important than ever.

The UK is the envy of the world in the creative arts, publishing and media industries and the excellent career progression of our students here in Cheltenham reflects this. Find out more about our outreach offer in these areas at

The 2019 entry UCAS end of cycle report also confirms that students are more likely to receive an offer, with record numbers of enrolments and acceptance rates. The intake across the UK this year is more inclusive, more global and more supported than ever, with record offer rates and 8 years of sustained investment in facilities and student experience. We notice this here at Gloucestershire too.

The Future of Admissions

The Universities UK (UUK) organisation has launched a call for evidence this term on the future of admissions to UK University – teachers and advisers are encouraged to take part. The initial deadline has passed but colleagues are still welcome to contribute during early January according to my sources at UUK – the link is here. I note too that university offer making (unconditional, contextual, conditional, unconditional) continues to be on the news and government agenda this month. Please get in touch with my team or I regarding our admissions and selection policies at Gloucestershire. We are keen to hear your views on behalf of your students and their supporters.

Teachers and Advisers' Conference

These and many other issues will be covered at our annual Teachers and Advisers' Conference on Wed 1st July 2020 here on campus in Cheltenham. We have a mix of external speakers and contributors including UCAS and admissions/guidance professionals from across the sector. Places are free and the outline of the programme and booking form are here.

Our outreach pages also list a number of other events and activities for students of all ages and a list of key contacts. We look forward to welcoming you and your students this year. My team will also be attending UCAS and other fairs/exhibitions during 2020 and we encourage you to book places on those events too, via the UCAS website.

Best wishes again for the rest of the UCAS cycle and keep in touch.

DIRECTOR of communications, marketing and student recruitment

James Seymour

James has held Director of Admissions and Student Recruitment roles at Buckingham and Aston Universities and before that, worked in education/schools liaison roles at the universities of Sheffield, Leeds, and Northumbria during the 1990s. 

James is a regular speaker at national and regional conferences, on HE guidance, admissions policy, and curriculum reform. James is a member of the UCAS Qualifications Advisory Group and a Secondary School Governor. James is also a member of the HE Forum for the Cambridge Assessment/OCR Examination Board, and on the editorial group of The Complete University Guide. 

James has a degree in politics from The University of Sheffield and a master’s in management from Aston Business School, Aston University. His master’s research project focused on student decision-making and UCAS choices.

Get in touch with james by email:​