So the A-level results have been released for 2009 and show a 97 per cent pass rate. There are all sorts of comparisons that we can make with the pass rates of 25 years ago. We can decry both students and lecturers, stating that the examinations are too easy, but that is not fair, since all these people are doing is meeting the requirements of the examination boards.
The examination boards do not seem to understand the market. I have been an external examiner in universities for a long time and among my many recommendations are the following: use the full range of marks available and discriminate between the performance of the different students.
This latter point is extremely important, and seems to be ignored by the examination boards, since most students use their A-level qualifications to find a university place. If everyone gets top marks (this is the logical conclusion of an increase in performance year on year), then universities will be forced into setting their own entrance examinations and inviting all potential candidates for interview. This would result in an unnecessary duplication of resources.
Allan Ashworth, Visiting professor, School of the Built Environment University of Salford.