A levels as entry route

September 4, 1998

It is disappointing to see yet another example of questionable graphical display used to substantiate a point based on dubious interpretation of data. Phil Baty ("Colleges overtake schools", THES, August 28) asserts that there is a steady decline in the number of people entering university via the A-level route. He quotes figures of 67.4 per cent in 1994 and 64.4 per cent in 1997. A decline right enough, but a relatively small one and one that since 1995 has shown a marked slowing compared with the 1994-95 period. The same is also true of the increase in the percentage of students entering higher education via the GNVQ route. Mr Baty could just as easily have written that, on the basis of recent trends, GNVQ was unlikely ever to become a major route for progression to higher education.

Mr Baty's graphs (all using different y-axis scales) reveal a very steep decline in the percentage of A-level entrants and an equally steep increase in those entering via GNVQ. He fails to caution readers about interpreting the graphs correctly and makes no reference at all in his article to the implication for the increase in GNVQ entrants of the decline in those entering university via access/foundation. Could it be that some of these students are now taking GNVQs instead?

Robert Leyland, Head of the policy and planning unit, University of Manchester

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