Question of degree without A levels

September 15, 1995

The current debate surrounding the propriety of admitting to undergraduate courses those without A levels seems to blur an important distinction. There is a long tradition, extending to Oxbridge, of universities accepting students without formal qualifications. For one reason or another, such applicants have never sat for A level examinations.

Many of these highly motivated, mature students, have acquitted themselves well at degree level.

The sterling example of such a policy is obviously the Open University about whose standards I have never read a disparaging comment.

However, there is another group of students, namely those recent school-leavers who have sat their A levels and failed, some quite badly.

The former group have an unknown potential and the gamble of admitting them to degree courses, almost always following an interview and typically requiring the submission of some written work, normally pays off.

Quite a different population are those school-leavers who have failed their A level examinations.

Here it is self-evidently puzzling to admit to an advanced course of study those who demonstrably have failed to attain an inferior standard.

Would anyone advocate schools of advanced motoring teaching drivers who have failed their driving test?

The new universities should be especially sensitive to the issues of quality appraisal and enhancement in terms of both process and product.

Ray Aldridge-Morris Middlesex University

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