Oxford admissions head sounds warning over exam changes

Plans to overhaul A-levels will have “tragic consequences” on fair access efforts, the University of Oxford’s admissions head has said.

October 16, 2013

Mike Nicholson, director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at Oxford, said making AS levels a stand-alone qualification would eliminate a useful indicator of final exam performance that had encouraged bright students to apply for selective courses.

“The loss of AS levels will have tragic consequences for widening participation and access to higher education,” Mr Nicholson told a Westminster Education Forum in London on 15 October.

“The real danger is students will plough on believing that they may not be capable of applying to a highly selective course,” he said. Meanwhile, less able students may continue with applications to highly selective courses without realising they have little chance of success, he added.

Mr Nicholson also warned that the rapid transition to the new system of A levels – coupled with changes to GCSEs – risked causing “havoc” in England’s school system, with students at less well-resourced schools hit hardest.

“The schools that adapt quickest are schools that are doing well at the moment,” he said.

The Department of Education should delay the introduction of the new A-levels system until the GCSE reforms had been implemented, he added. “The race to 2015 is unnecessary,” he said.

He suggested the reforms were “another example of a government’s tendency to meddle in things they should probably leave alone”.

“There is widespread concern, not restricted to the secondary school sector but also to higher education, about the limited evidence that there is need for any change,” he said.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

PhD Scholar in Medicine

University Of Queensland

Manager, Research Systems and Performance

Auckland University Of Technology

Lecturer in Aboriginal Allied Health

University Of South Australia

Lecturer, School of Nursing & Midwifery

Western Sydney University

College General Manager, SHE

La Trobe University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham