ABB policy may help new more than old

New universities may get the most from policy change, argues GuildHE head. Jack Grove reports

September 26, 2013

Growing numbers of students attaining high BTEC scores mean that many post-1992 universities seem better placed to expand their intake under the ABB policy than their pre-1992 peers, a sector figure has said.

Statistics released by Ucas show that much of the growth in university entrants achieving at least ABB at A level or the equivalent comes from vocational BTEC courses such as business, engineering or accounting.

The number of students accepted on to courses this autumn with BTEC grades worth the same as ABB is 28,580, 12 per cent higher than last year. The number of A-level students accepted with ABB or above is up 6 per cent.

It means that more than a quarter of about 111,000 students who achieved ABB or the equivalent – who thanks to coalition policy are now exempt from number controls – are studying vocational courses.

New universities that offer vocational courses more aligned to BTECs could be better placed to attract this growing cohort than traditional universities, suggested Andy Westwood, chief executive of Guild HE, which represents small and specialist higher education institutions.

“Those applicants with equivalent qualifications may make different decisions about what constitutes the ‘best’ universities,” Mr Westwood told Times Higher Education.

With universities able to recruit unlimited numbers of high-flying vocational students, many more may soon start to compete for them rather than simply seeking to attract A-level applicants, he added.

“If universities wish to recruit only specific types of student demonstrating specific aptitudes via A-level results at 18, not all will be able to succeed,” he said. “But the number of applicants with vocational qualifications…means there will be a steady supply of newly qualified people in this category.”

Institutions would also need to adapt their courses to ensure that those from vocational backgrounds used to more practice-based learning can succeed, Mr Westwood added.

“Universities may decide to look in some way beyond their traditional models…and to diversify the way they structure…courses as well as their recruitment practices,” he said.

Mr Westwood’s comments come after Mary Curnock Cook, the head of Ucas, warned in THE last month that universities faced a “moving target” over ABB.

The Ucas data, published on 24 September, also confirm that student numbers have bounced back after falling sharply last year as £9,000 tuition fees were introduced.

Four weeks after A-level results day, 445,820 students had accepted places – 9 per cent up on 2012.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest