What does it mean to be 'qualified'?

September 3, 2009

As the wailing continues over the school-leavers "qualified" for university entry for whom there are no places available, we should reflect on what "qualified" means. Anyone who scrapes through A levels with two passes at grade E is technically qualified for higher education. Since fewer than 3 per cent of candidates now fall short of an E, it requires some effort and ingenuity to fail to "qualify" for higher education in this way.

And if two A levels at grade E are too much to ask, there's always the GNVQ route, along which it is even harder to lose the way.

If over the next few years there are fewer dropouts among people who should never have been admitted in the first place (the present levels being as high as 30 per cent in some post-1992 institutions), and if this is accompanied by a fall in the recent epidemic of dyslexia that appears to be spreading through some institutions like a medieval plague, then perhaps some lessons will be learnt about academic standards and value for money.

Stephen Halliday, Cherry Hinton, University of Cambridge.

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