Oxford demands star quality from candidates

The University of Oxford has announced that it will start asking for A* grades at A level.

January 12, 2011

Some 15 courses – mostly science and mathematics subjects – will require at least one A* from candidates who apply to start university in 2012.

Those applying to study maths, maths and philosophy, or maths and statistics will be asked to achieve A* grades in both maths and further maths.

Although many institutions – including the University of Cambridge – already make offers involving the new A* grade, Oxford’s policy has been to wait two years.

It said that teachers were uncertain about predicting who would receive the grade.

In a statement published yesterday, the university says: “It is now clear that many students in the sciences who take A levels get the A* grade, and that it would be reasonable to ask for an A* in many science and maths courses.

“In addition, by 2012 Oxford believes teachers will have two years of running the syllabus and will be familiar with content and student performance, and therefore be able to predict those getting the A* with more confidence.”

The statement says the decision to postpone the use of A* grades was not driven by concern about the impact on the number of state school pupils admitted.

In 2008, the National Council for Educational Excellence recommended that universities ignore the A* grade for the first few years after its introduction because of concerns about the effect it could have on efforts to widen participation.

Last summer, when A* grades were awarded at A level for the first time, more than 90 per cent of students with Oxford offers achieved at least one A*, while students with offers from Cambridge received an average of 2.5 A*s each.


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