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 6 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 Position in Archaeology and Cultural History

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD position in Energy and Process Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD position in Energy and Process Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD position in Industrial Energy Efficiency

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Postdoc in Traffic Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes