Reform minded

March 25, 2005

Alison Wolf seems to have completely misunderstood Cambridge University's admissions process and our reasons for supporting the Tomlinson recommendations, to judge by her opinion piece last week.

We select students on the basis of intellectual potential after carefully assessing all the information available about each applicant, and this would have continued to be so had Tomlinson been implemented. The suggestion that we hoped for some sort of single national ranking system is ludicrous.

In our response to the working group's interim report, we stated: "Given the inherent difficulty, indeed probable impossibility, of devising an equitable, fine-grained overall grading system, it is unlikely that the overall grading will assist selective universities in differentiating between students."

We supported Tomlinson because it proposed increased academic challenge for bright students and the chance for students to develop a greater and more coherent breadth of skills. It placed real value on vocational skills, increased the opportunities for students to switch between vocational and academic routes and left more time for learning by reducing the burden of assessment. We believe it would also have engaged students who drop out of education and helped selective universities by providing a finer grading system in the components equivalent to A level and a complete transcript of a learner's achievements.

Tomlinson would have meant a better education for learners and better information for admissions tutors.

Geoff Parks
Director of admissions for the Cambridge colleges
Cambridge University

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