AUT opposes post- A level application

November 28, 2003

Lecturers' leaders have rejected calls for school-leavers to be allowed to apply for university after they have received their A-level results.

Two weeks after Universities UK cast doubt on proposals from the Department for Education and Skills to set up a post-qualifications applications (PQA) system in a bid to make university access fairer, the Association of University Teachers has added its 45,000-strong voice to the protests.

In its submission this week to Brunel University vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz's review of university admissions for the DFES, which has also mooted a PQA system, the AUT said that there was "little evidence that a post-results system would radically improve the participation of lower socio-economic groups in higher education".

The union's attack goes beyond that of UUK, which has limited its opposition to plans to move back the start of the academic year, thought to be necessary to allow a PQA system to work.

The AUT's Schwartz submission says that if a PQA system is introduced, it must be compatible with both the university and school year, as well as the timing of national exams.

The union warns that any changes must be done on a practical and negotiated basis and must consider the impact on staff as well as students. "If this cannot be achieved, then we do not yet see the case for PQA as persuasive enough to justify the changes institutions would need to make," the submission states.

Lecturers' union Natfhe, in its submission, says it will support PQA, as long as its impact on staff and students is agreed before its introduction.

But Natfhe says PQA should be balanced by not placing undue emphasis on exam results as the sole determinant of university entry. This is a key issue for Professor Schwartz, who has suggested lowering entry requirements for students from low-performing schools or socially deprived backgrounds.

"Account should also be taken of work done 'pre-entry' between partnerships of schools, further education colleges, higher education institutions and other employer and training providers," according to Natfhe.

In its submission to the Schwartz review, the Council for Industry and Higher Education said that sixth-formers should be given "transcripts" of their achievements to help them with their applications, so that universities select the best candidates.

For universities and colleges to recruit solely on the basis of generic A-level results "would be to miss the weaknesses that such a broad classification represents", it argues. "The grade awarded at A level... may hide a range of capabilities that may be important indicators of an individual's ability to handle a higher education curriculum."

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