Clearing up an entry muddle

February 17, 1995

The change of the system of post-qualification entry (THES, February 3) that is being suggested comes not before time. Entry to higher education is, at best, an anxious time for candidates and those close to them, at worst it is a complete lottery in the clearing period with students signing up for courses for which they find themselves, two months later, completely unsuited.

There is also the move, in some institutions, to modularisation and semesterisation but the currently implemented model of the latter (start in late September/early October) leads to a yawning gap in late January/early February with "marking weeks", "inter-semester weeks" and so on. The logic of semesterisation must lead to a complete semester before Christmas, ie an early September start for higher education but the present entry system and, I would suggest, the proposed changed process would probably not be able to manage the transition efficiently. In the timescale involved it seems to me inevitable that there will be casualties and unsatisfied "customers".

I would support a new system of entry to higher education since the present one has the fatal flaw of institutions having to process (in round terms) eight applications for every live body that comes across the threshold for the autumn semester/term. But the logic of a post-qualification system must be followed through to its logical conclusion and everything must be moved back one month.

A-levels results will have to be published in mid-July and students apply to named institution(s) shortly thereafter. A levels will thus have to be taken one month earlier than now which means that they will have to be started one month earlier. To achieve this schools will have to begin the autumn term a month earlier, in early August rather than early September.

Of course this cannot be achieved overnight but if plans were laid now for 1997/98 to be the September to June academic year in schools then the "lost month" of children's schooling could be offset fairly easily. Academic years thereafter would be August to June and the school summer holidays would take place during the better weather of late June and July rather than in what usually turns out to be a disappointing August. It seems that there is little to be lost in this proposal but quite a few gains for the education community.

C. Hancock

114 Midford Road


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