Universities and industry have signalled their eagerness to recruit students holding new "vocational A levels". An increasing number of higher education institutions are writing General National Vocational Qualifications into their admissions policies and some are developing degree courses tailormade for GNVQ students.
The new-found confidence in GNVQs, which emerged at a key training conference last week, is mirrored in the findings of a national survey conducted by The THES.
Nearly three-quarters of institutions responding said they recruit students holding Advanced GNVQs, and more than half are planning to offer higher level GNVQ courses if the qualifications come on stream over the next few years.
Further education sector colleges were even more enthusiastic about GNVQs as well as the more job-specific NVQs, with 80 per cent saying they would like to run higher level GNVQ courses, and the same proportion either already offering or planning to offer higher NVQs.
The survey reveals that both qualifications have won the confidence of most universities and colleges. More than half see GNVQs as beneficial to post-14 education and training, against 17 per cent who say they have had a damaging effect; and almost half see NVQs as beneficial, compared with 14.5 per cent who see them as damaging.
Some universities are now so keen on GNVQs that they are making them a necessary rather than simply desirable entry qualification for certain courses, said admissions tutors at a conference on GNVQs in London last week.
At South Bank University three engineering courses starting in September have been specifically designed to cater for students holding GNVQs.
Lee Rose, admissions lecturer at South Bank's engineering faculty, told the conference: "These new courses are designed for 'thinker-practitioners' and offer an alternative to the more traditional courses for 'thinker-analysers'."
Martin Eason, senior lecturer in manufacturing at the University of East London, said GNVQ students had a big advantage over academically-qualified entrants because they had gained vital experience of the world of work as well as knowledge and understanding of their subject. "GNVQ students are going to leave some of the A-level students standing, because A-level students have to come to terms with the industry/business mentality," he said.