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Why referees are crucial for uni applicants

There is no doubting that a tremendous amount of time and effort is put into the references that we receive at the University of East Anglia.

We know that some referees are writing references for many applicants.  We appreciate the care given to the personalisation of these, it is definitely worth it!  The reference acts as a guide for our decision making and gives us context when reading the personal statement and reviewing the academic history for each applicant.

The first and most important role of a referee is that they review the information supplied by the applicant.  If there is something missing or the information is not clear it can delay Universities from making a decision.

Universities can only make a decision on the information that is provided and an unintended consequence of missing information is that a decision may be delayed while we contact you or the applicant.   In the worst case an applicant could be rejected because we’re unaware that there is something missing.

It is worth scanning the entry requirements for the applicant’s choices to make sure that they have the correct subject mix and are eligible for the course they wish to study.

It is important to us that referees are best placed to comment on the student’s academic and personal qualities.  In certain cases it might be easier for subject specific tutors to write about the subject area pertaining to them.  From my point of view, I don’t mind whether it comes from one person or there are multiple mini references collated and reviewed by a co-ordinator. A clear structure using paragraphs and/or headings is beneficial in all cases.

We are gauging the applicant’s potential by what you write; this is specifically related to the predicted grades that you provide us, and also by the supporting information in the main body of the reference.

It is important that the box requesting the predictions is completed.  You do not have to repeat the predictions in the reference.  Instead, this is your opportunity to reinforce the reasoning behind the prediction. You may wish to highlight the skills and qualities they are developing as a result of work experience.  Alternatively it could be additional or specific learning they are undertaking to enhance their understanding of the curriculum. Or it could be specific achievements that you think would enrich their experience of studying a subject at university.

Posted by Alix Delany on Thu, 2 Feb 2017



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In 1998 Alix graduated with a degree in History from the University of East Anglia and has been working in Admissions for nearly 10 years. In 2011 Alix moved into her current position as Assistant Head of Admissions.

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