School should be an issue for admissions staff

June 26, 2008

The body that advises the Prime Minister on education is to recommend that universities take candidates' schools into account when deciding whether to offer them a place.

The National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE) will say that institutions should take into account as wide a range of information as possible when selecting students.

Some universities already lower their entry requirements for students from poor performing schools, but there is currently no Government position on the controversial practice.

It is also understood that the NCEE will question whether universities should take account of schools' predictions of which of their students will gain the new top grade of A* at A level when it is introduced in 2009-10.

Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter and a member of the NCEE, said: "Schools do not yet have any evidence on which to judge who will get starred A grades. We are raising a question of what the A* grade's role should be next academic year."

Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: "It will be more difficult for someone from a less well-resourced or intensive educational background to get an A* and therefore there are some implications for widening participation."

Meanwhile, as Times Higher Education went to press, the National Audit Office was about to release a report suggesting that a strong link remains between social class and a university education.

The study said higher education is "not always provided in ways that make it accessible to under-represented groups".

- An aptitude test used by the University of Oxford to vet applicants for its philosophy, politics and economics degree course is to be extended to another discipline.

The Thinking Skills Assessment, which was devised by Cambridge Assessment, was taken by 1,200 PPE applicants last year. From this autumn, it will also be set for economics and management applicants.

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