Making the grade

February 19, 2015

Among the many important points that Danny Dorling makes about admissions and participation in the English higher education system (“Money changes everything”, Features, 12 February), what struck me most was how unreliable predicted A-level grades are, the consequences of which in the classroom are profound.

Every August, admissions tutors come under pressure from university accountants to admit candidates who are below the defined levels of achievement for which their courses are designed, which leads to vastly differing levels of preparedness among the students we teach. The result is that much of lecturers’ energy goes into keeping the lower end of the class satisfied – something that is frequently measured – at the cost of not being able to stretch the more able students to their full intellectual potential.

This issue cannot be easily seen from outside the system because it is masked by the enormous quality assurance mechanisms that we have in place, so that against all the “learning outcomes’’ listed in our course brochures we can tick boxes to say that they have been met with confidence.

Mahesan Niranjan
University of Southampton

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