Leader: Why couldn't a new year start in January?

November 8, 2002

Universities have claimed for years that they wanted a post A-level admissions system, while simultaneously insisting that it could not be done. How ironic that the moment real progress was being made, another proposal is pushing the plans on to the back burner. Mike Tomlinson's report would accommodate the change by postponing the start of courses, rather than using the six-term school year as an opportunity to squeeze the process to fit the existing academic calendar. Either formulation would allow admissions staff to consider applicants' actual exam results.

A January start would horrify traditionalists, but there would be advantages. It would allow more time for the appeals that are becoming a standard feature of examining and give school-leavers more of a break before they embark on higher education. Those who struggle to afford 12 months off might welcome the opportunity for extended travelling or other activities now undertaken in a gap year. The complications of organising overlapping year groups on campus would be challenging, but surely not insuperable. Why is there a lingering feeling that it will never happen?

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