Do grades still make the grade? 3

September 22, 2006

Stephen Gorard advocates a hurdle system for university access. My experience of such a system was excellent. I passed the matura (similar to the baccalaureate) with reasonable grades and could start any course at any Swiss university. I chose electrical engineering despite poor maths results. Unlike 40 per cent of my cohort, I survived the first and second-year exams and gained a degree after four years.

My cousin and I were the first in our family to complete university degrees. In Britain, neither of us would have been allowed to study engineering at a "decent" university. There is a problem, though: the price of widening access using the Swiss approach is a low overall completion rate. Exam boards will have to be tough to be kind. Retention rates could no longer be measures for university performance (yippee).

Felix Schmid
Birmingham University

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