Quicker A-level results would aid admissions

June 9, 2000

Peter Lampl's Sutton Trust (unlike sundry government ministers) knows its onions when it comes to discrimination in university admissions. It has identified bias in favour of privately educated candidates at the top 13 universities.

It has also come forward with constructive suggestions. One is scholastic aptitude tests. Such tests are already being piloted quietly at Oxford on a long-term basis. SATs are, of course, susceptible to coaching. They are also less needed here than in the United States where there are no national final school exams (A levels). But they could enrich student data for admissions staff.

But the bigger prize would be to crack post-A level recruitment. This has repeatedly foundered on time: that taken to mark A levels in summer and that needed to complete the syllabus if they are taken earlier. Must we accept defeat on this or are there ways of getting A levels marked quicker? Would university staff, if freed from the admissions quagmire, be willing to help? Could some parts of some subjects be marked mechanically? Should all sixth-form teachers have to be available for marking? And should the government turn its attention to the exam boards instead of bullying the universities?

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