Clarke backs steering group call for post A-level university selection

16 Sep 04
Students will not apply for university places until they know their A-level results under proposed radical changes to higher education access backed by the government.

17 September 2004

Students will not apply for university places until they know their A-level results under proposed radical changes to higher education access backed by the government.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke promised immediate action on one of the central recommendations of the steering group set up to advise on university admissions, whose final report was published on September 14.

The steering group, led by Professor Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University, called on the education secretary to implement a system of post-qualification applications (PQA) as soon as possible.

'The current system, relying on predicted grades, cannot be fair,' the report states. Only half of predicted grades, on which university places are currently awarded, are accurate.

Clarke said the PQA system had gained the reputation of a 'holy grail' among the admissions experts – desirable but not achievable. 'Although I am aware of the practical difficulties, I remain persuaded by the arguments for such a system and think it is time to make it achievable,' he said.

'It must be fairer and more transparent for students to know their final results before making important choices about where and what to study, and this must also aid decision-making by universities.'

Sir Alan Wilson, the director general for higher education and former vice-chancellor of Leeds University, has been commissioned to lead work on the implementation of PQA.

Clarke also backed another of the steering group's main recommendations: independent research on the viability of US-style standard tests of potential.

Other recommendations called for universities and colleges to provide applicants with details of their admissions criteria and provide unsuccessful candidates with feedback.

Schwartz said he hoped the report would act as a 'catalyst for action', providing universities and colleges with a practical guide for fair admissions.

But there was concern after it emerged that universities would not be required to comply with Schwartz's recommendations – and may be allowed to raise fees before acting to improve their social inclusion rates.

Barry Sheerman, who chairs the Commons' education select committee, said the government needed to show it was serious about fair admissions if its higher education policy was to retain the support of MPs.

PFsep2004

Did you enjoy this article?

AddToAny

Have your say

Top