A Levels and university entrance

19 Aug 2010

It's interesting to note how many of those newspapers and commentators which decried the 50% university participation target in the past are now working themselves up into a lather of indignation over young people being denied a place this year.

Judging by their past rhetoric, they should be celebrating the fact that university entrance has become more competitive and that not everyone will be heading towards our campuses.

Instead, they have picked up the parental anxiety of their readership and conveniently forgotten their past opposition to university expansion.

Like so many summer education stories, this has been over-played. (Like for example all the headlines about a 0.1% percentage point increase in the A Level pass-rates...how many other topics would  be considered so newsworthy with such a small  increase?).

UCAS figures show that 383,230 students have been offered a place. This is some 10,000 more than at this time last year, when the figure was just over 372,620.

It is true that there are more applicants eligible for clearing (183,000 compared to 135,000), so there will be more disappointed applicants. But remember the increase in applications includes overseas students, and re-applications as well as UK-based school leavers.

Remember too that every year, for some years, there have been a large number of applicants who did not get in (if everyone got in there would be the usual outcry about university being too easy and standards being lowered).

In fact, last year 158,000 candidates were left without a place. This year it will be higher but it is worth remembering that every year large numbers do not get in. This is not a new phenomenon. As in the past, some of those who do not make it this year will reapply and get in the following year. 

Of course, there would be 10,000 more places if the coalition government had not halved Labour's plans to create an extra 20,000 places. Mind you, that increase - made in the dying days of the last government - came too late for many universities to implement and it never looked to be fully funded for the long term.

As for the usual questions about A levels being too easy, people forget that the current system will - logically - lead to virtually a 100% pass-rate. That is because the AS level provides a half-way marker. So,  if students are not on course for a pass, they (or their school/college) will ensure they do not continue just to fail at A2. 

Would we really want students to plough on for a second year only to fail?

Meanwhile, let's not forget the Advanced Diploma students who also achieved  their results today. They have worked hard for their pioneering qualifications but must now be worried by the government's lack of enthusiasm for diplomas.

User Comments

Point Blank - 24 Aug 2010

Alternatives for Students

Finally some sense through all the media furore. This is an annual event, perhaps the figures should be offset against the number people who fail to finish their degree. I do empathise with those you haven't managed to claim a place though and no where have I read one piece about the proposed "future" for those who will not receive an offer this time around. No one seems to be providing an alternative for this unfortunate rabble of highly educated young souls. We have just seen the "best" A-level results ever and now the hard working students that fought so competitively for their place and narrowly missed out are being told to get jobs working for charities and wait it out until next year. Surely this unacceptable?

I'm not saying that charity work isn't necessary and definitely has the potential to teach young people a thing or two about the working world. However, there maybe 170,000 stray students and if each of them are to take up residence on our High Streets then where are all the prams and old people going to reside?
Alternatively, could it be the time for students to be encouraged to follow another path? Embrace their interests and extra curricular activities art, music, fashion, film. If A-level students are being encouraged to take a year out and in that year be really productive, aside from jetting of to "Pairouw" (Peru) making this their "Gaup Yawr", then why shouldn't it relate to something they truly love and enjoy?

With so many renowned and highly accredited institutions up and down the country boasting a broad variety of courses which, are provided through a host of different study methods then surely authoritative figures would be better serving their future work force by encouraging them to take this opportunity to do something for themselves and exercise their talents. It might just help to make the nation a more balanced and equitable place?

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