Three Ds = devaluation 1

September 1, 2006

The Government should be concerned about the deflation of entrance requirements at elite universities ("Top institutions accept students with D grades", August 25) for two reasons. First, reductions in entrance standards will lead to a further devaluing of A levels. If you can get into a good university with three Ds, why bother working harder than you have to?

What sort of attitude will students have towards A levels and their teachers if A levels are seen to be little more than a rubber-stamping exercise?

In my own area, universities have to teach topics and skills that were once part of the A-level syllabus. Bringing students up to speed in these areas eats into resources and into the time available to teach students at graduate level and affects the quality of the final product.

Second, are "elite" research-focused universities geared up to cope with less able students who are likely to require much more support? Even if through investment in student support and changes in approaches to teaching these institutions manage to get their customers through to final degree standard, will their graduates continue in their careers to expect a high level of support and for hurdles to be lowered to allow them to progress? And while these institutions are adjusting to cope with less gifted clients what will they be doing to stretch the straight-A students?

Increasing the numbers of young people entering higher education is laudable, but there is a need for government policy to ensure that students are being served appropriately. Failure to do so will harm the sector.

Magnus Johnson
Lecturer in marine biology
Hull University

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