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

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

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

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study