University admissions tutors are this year facing a tenfold increase in the number of applicants with vocational A levels, according to statistics released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, writes Simon Targett.
More than 9,000 students studying for an advanced level general national vocational qualification, officially regarded as equivalent to two A levels, have applied for undergraduate courses. This com pares with 900 last year, when more than 80 per cent were offered places, mainly at ex-polytechnics.
A level, with its implied gold standard, remains the primary university entrance examination. Many of the 9,000 applicants will be offering an A level as well as a GNVQ. The figures show the qualification, also intended to prepare students for employment, is attracting university-calibre candidates.
GNVQs' credibility has recently been boosted by the announcements that the Government is to invest Pounds 29 million in "quality" development and that two GNVQ and A-level awarding bodies are set to merge by the end of the year.
Tony Higgins, chief executive of UCAS, said: "There is now no reason to believe the GNVQ student is any less prepared for higher education than the A level student."
Judith Compton of GNVQs and Access into Higher Education, a research group set up by UCAS which is publishing an analysis of the figures this month, said: "The GNVQ is gaining currency as a university entrance qualification."
Figures show the number of GNVQ applicants to higher education is keeping pace with the number of students taking GNVQs. But Mr Higgins said universities are still unfamiliar with the qualification: "We still have to explain what a GNVQ is."