Now vet schools opt for entry test

April 2, 2004

Two veterinary schools this week joined the growing band of institutions setting their own entry tests for students.

The move, by Bristol University's Veterinary School and the Royal Veterinary College, flies in the face of the anticipated recommendations of the Schwartz report on university admissions, due to be published next week.

The review is likely to favour a single national test over the subject-specific tests being introduced by individual institutions. The national test would resemble the SATs used in the US to identify the brightest students regardless of which school they attended.

From next autumn, a biomedical admissions test will be taken by some 5,000 applicants to Oxford University Medical School, Cambridge University medical and veterinary schools, the Royal Free and University College London Medical School.

Expansion of a similar scheme for applicants hoping to study law is awaiting next week's report by Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University.

Professor Schwartz criticised such tests for posing a plethora of additional barriers to students from non-traditional backgrounds.

But Simon Lebus, chief executive of the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate, which runs the biomedical admissions test on behalf of the universities, said the test was superior to those likely to be proposed by the Schwartz review.

He said: "The tests we have developed are designed with the aptitudes required by the UK higher education market in mind. It is clear that the mere anglicisation of the language used would be insufficient to translate the American SAT into a British context.

"A great deal of work would need to be done before the test measured what British higher education institutions would prefer to be measured. We've already done that work."

Earlier this week, teachers backed the idea of a single national test. Some 55 per cent agreed that a test of academic potential, such as an American-style SAT test, would be useful for university applicants. Just 29 per cent disagreed.

The survey of 479 secondary school teachers was conducted by Mori for education charity the Sutton Trust. Sir Peter Lampl, the trust's chairman, said: "A trial of the American SAT in British schools showed that, as an additional measure to A levels, it can identify talent from schools with low examination performance."

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