A single qualifications framework for post-school education and training, with a new points system for entry into higher education, could emerge from a Government-backed review.
Sir Ron Dearing, who heads the review of 16-19 qualifications at the request of Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, says he wants to explore an overarching system in which points could be accumulated on either academic or vocational courses. This could build on existing qualifications and take on board achievement in a wider range of areas, including new routes such as the Modern Apprenticeship. Sir Ron, who is in the early stages of assembling issues already raised by a host of organisations contributing to the review, told The THES that he wanted to consult with higher education on the implications for the admissions system of developing such a framework.
"My terms of reference take as my starting point the elements that are already there. But I want to create a framework which recognises that there may well be a major change in the balance between A levels, National Vocational Qualifications, General NVQs and the Modern Apprenticeship as a gateway into HE. It will also have to recognise that HE may not in future be so concerned with the degree, but in its adaptation to change may be placing greater emphasis on the two-year diploma," he said.
One of the key issues was the waste involved in high drop-out and failure rates on courses, Sir Ron told representatives of schools, colleges and universities at a conference on the review this week. Sir Ron is interested in new routes between different types of qualifications, and giving students some credit for uncompleted courses. Common elements could be developed between modular A level and GNVQ courses, to give students more time to decide which kind of study is best for them.