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Higher Education: Admissions

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 19 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) what (a) representations he has received from and (b) discussions he has had with university admissions tutors on the account taken of A-level qualifications in their admission assessments; and if he will make a statement; (210518)

(2) what research his Department (a) has commissioned, (b) plans to commission and (c) has evaluated on the role of A-levels in university admission assessments; when his Department last undertook a review of the role of A-levels in admission assessments that took into account (i) UK and (ii) international research; and if he will make a statement.

I meet many leaders in higher education to discuss issues of importance to them, including the reforms to our national qualifications system and admissions. Higher education institutions are solely responsible for their own admissions and it is for them to decide the entry requirements to individual courses, including prior qualifications.

The Department does not assess the value of the wide range of entry qualifications that institutions may use to select from applicants. But the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority maintains and develops the national curriculum and associated assessments, tests and examinations, and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service’s tariff is a points system used to report achievement for entry to higher education in a numerical format. It establishes agreed comparability between different types of qualifications and provides comparisons between applicants with different types and volumes of achievement.

A-levels already provide a high quality, well recognised route into HE courses for large numbers of students and the changes that are being made from September will reinforce this. New A-levels which are being taught from September this year have incorporated further stretch and challenge and the new Extended Project has been widely welcomed by admissions tutors as likely to allow applicants to demonstrate the independent study skills that they will need for HE. These will be complemented by the new diplomas and over 100 higher education institutions have already confirmed that they will include these new qualifications as part of their admissions processes. A recent report by the 1994 Group of universities shows widespread welcome for changes being made to A-levels to ensure they provide the right level of stretch and challenge for those going on to higher education. The same report was also positive about the use universities would make of the new diplomas in admissions.