Quality and now quantity

August 26, 2010

The claims about universities and diplomas in Times Higher Education fail to explain that very few students chose to take the advanced diploma in 2008 (The Week in Higher Education, 19 August). It was offered only in a few parts of the country because it was a new qualification. Many more students will begin the course next month and the numbers taking the advanced-level diploma are now rising.

The dropout rate this year was low and it is quite wrong to assume students are choosing to do a diploma instead of GCSEs or A levels. They do both.

Employers are beginning to offer jobs to diploma students because of the new employment skills many of them have developed. The quality of the engineering students and their depth of their knowledge has already been acknowledged by industry.

Some students may apply to study a different subject at university than they studied at diploma level. It may well be one of their A-level subjects, so any figures quoted at the moment do not give the full picture.

Students who have passed the advanced diploma this year, and almost all have, obtain as a result 3.5 A levels. Most have taken other A levels as well, which will give them more qualifications than most other A-level students.

Many hundreds of students have enjoyed their diploma courses, especially the opportunity to apply the academic knowledge they have been taught in real-life situations. Working in partnership with employers and higher education has proved valuable.

Graham Lane, Chair of the Engineering Diploma Development Partnership, London.

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