Sharper university entrants are on the way

UUK says 14-19 reforms will better equip students for university. Melanie Newman reports

June 19, 2009

Universities should be free to teach more higher-level material to first-year undergraduates than is currently possible as a result of improvements to education for 14- to 19-year-olds.

This is a conclusion of a report from Universities UK that sets out the implications for university curriculums, admissions policies and assessment practices of a series of planned reforms to 14-19 qualifications.

The report, The Impact of the 14-19 Curriculum Reforms on Higher Education, was launched at a UUK conference today. It considers the effects of changes to GCSEs and A levels, such as the introduction of the A* grade, and the impact of other new qualifications such as the 14-19 diploma and Welsh Baccalaureate.

“Students will have undertaken more extended writing, research and analysis than has previously been the case,” the report says. “The type of practical work in A levels may have changed, and those involved in diplomas with technical content may have considerably more experience of working with specialist equipment.

“If the reforms are able to deliver on providing a broader base of skills, it is possible that in time the reforms will allow institutions to concentrate on higher-level activities where perhaps there was not room in the curriculum before.”

Assessment methods may also have to change. “Holders of diplomas will have experienced less formal examination-style assessment than those on a pure A-level programme,” the report points out.

The report emphasises that institutions must have clear admissions policies and fair entry requirements for all the different qualifications. It also suggests that diplomas could increase demand for degree courses in engineering and physical sciences.

Diana Warwick, the UUK’s chief executive, said: “These reforms do have the potential to provide students with the skills and attributes that higher education institutions have said they would like to see from an improved secondary education system, but achieving this will require the continued involvement and support of the higher education sector.”

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

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