One in four university entrants has a BTEC, Ucas study finds

Admissions service says institutions should do more to accommodate growing numbers of students from a vocational background

January 28, 2016
Apprentices working with engineer on CNC machinery

More than one in four English students accepted into higher education last year had at least one vocational BTEC among their qualifications, a study says.

Analysis by Ucas shows that 26 per cent (102,700) of English university entrants had a BTEC in 2015, compared with 14 per cent in 2008. Most of these had BTECs only, but some combined the qualification with A levels.

The admissions service says that if universities assume that their new entrants have experienced the style of teaching and assessment associated with A levels, students with vocational qualifications “may struggle”.

In particular, students with BTECs may have less experience of essay writing and examined assessments, and some gaps in subject knowledge, according to the report, Progression Pathways.

Read more: First figures on student acceptances by institution for 2015 published by Ucas

A study published last year by the Higher Education Academy found that students who went to university with vocational qualifications were less likely to achieve a first or 2:1 when they graduated.

However, the Ucas study says that many students with BTECs were “very successful” at university and often had much greater subject knowledge than A-level students if their vocational qualification was a good match for their degree.

Ucas suggests that universities should consider offering more targeted support to students from a vocational background, and should also ensure that entry requirements for these students were clear.

A Ucas study published last year, focusing only on 18-year-old applicants from the UK, found that 63 per cent of them applied with the traditional set of three A levels, down to 173,420 from 179,659 four years previously.

Students with BTECs, either on their own or in combination with A levels, accounted for 15 per cent of all UK 18-year-old applicants, up from 11 per cent in 2011.

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Print headline: One in four entrants has a BTEC, study finds

Reader's comments (1)

The new standardised RQF is likely to encourage an increasing proportion of students entering university with this type of level 3 technical/vocational qualification, and therefore many more Distinction grades. Consequently, some universities that have historically offered matching levels 4-7 programmes, notably the post 92 types, might subsequently be able to build up the critical research mass in the related technical/professional subject fields needed to successfully gain top REF ratings, more level 8 Doctoral training and greater influence in shaping Innovate UK projects.

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