Today's news

August 20, 2004

A-level joy means first-choice university record
As schools celebrated their best-ever set of A-level results, a record number of students secured places at their first-choice universities yesterday. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said places had been confirmed for 267,442 applicants compared with 248,400 at the same time last year. The overall pass rate for 2004 was 96 per cent
Daily Telegraph, Guardian

Universities in a grade-A muddle
The rise in the number of good A-level results makes the task of picking the best students even harder for universities. John Marincowitz, head of the top state school for A-level results, said yesterday that reform was needed to prevent a loss of faith in the qualification.
Daily Mail

Adviser calls for market in degrees
Universities should be allowed to expand or contract in response to demand, with applicants for undergraduate places spending a degree "voucher" on their chosen course, according to Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University, who next month is due to present ministers with his final recommendations for fair university admissions.
Financial Times

Record degree rush, but graduate pay falls
The value of a degree has fallen sharply for the first time. A study by Kate Purcell of the University of the West of England and Peter Elias of Warwick University found that recent graduates are earning up to a fifth less in real terms than those who left university in 1999. The situation is worse for women, who make up 55 per cent of the student population. None of the graduates in the study had to pay tuition fees. The Higher Education Statistics Agency plans a further study of graduates from 2001 to see of the decline in salaries is the start of a trend.

Students turned off by vocational A levels
The Government's strategy to boost practical and vocational skills is failing to attract young people, yesterday's exam results revealed. There was a further drop in the number of entries for vocational A levels, ranging from hospitality and catering to construction and travel and tourism, prompting calls for a rethink by education ministers.

'Fashionable' courses may attract higher fees
Ministers are coming under pressure to charge students higher tuition fees if they opt to study "fashionable" subjects. The move is being advocated by leading academic researcher Alan Smithers, head of the Centre of Education and Employment at Buckingham University.

Oxford place and deportation for refugee
An asylum seeker who has won a place to study engineering at St John's College, Oxford, has been warned that he could be deported before he starts. Afghan refugee Azim Ansari, who scored two As in maths and physics and a B in chemistry, has been told that the Home Office will not extend his temporary visa.
Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Times

Family celebration for Britain's star pupils
Three sisters from Truro, Lil, Helen and Kate Armstrong, have become the first triplets to all be accepted by Cambridge University. Maths was the most popular subject among twins who achieved top grades. They included Yan-Ling Li and Lan-Yi Li, who have accepted places at Warwick University and King's College. Mahdi and Hadi Godazgar also achieved 11 A grades between them and will be going to York. Robert and Matthew English from Preston will study engineering at Cambridge after gaining four A grades each.
Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail

Grandad joins the A-level teens
Raymond Caterill, a window-cleaning grandfather of 68 from Leeds, has passed his A levels and hopes to study English and theology at university.

A levels: who needs them?
With A-level pass-rates nearing 100 per cent, the handful of candidates who ended up with none must be distraught. But, finds Arifa Akbar, lack of qualifications doesn't mean you can't succeed.

On course for success
Anthony McClaran, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, outlines how Ucas is there to provide a guiding hand through the clearing system.

A-level results listing the top schools
Times, Guardian, Independent

Comments on A levels and admissions
- Christopher Last: "New world records are being set almost every day in the Olympic Games, yet there have been no suggestions that the events are getting easier." Times
- Philip Hensher: "Even your pet rabbit could pass an A-level. In 10 years' time we could see pass rates of 120 per cent, which would be excellent." Independent
- Julian Wright, lecturer, Durham: "In the last few years I have taught some brilliant undergraduates. However, few have known how to introduce an essay or to tackle a question." Times
- Keith Farman: "We are replacing education for life with training for a job, at all levels of education." Times
- Robert Chapman: "Surely it is better to encourage universities to modify their degrees to include those vocational skills that employers require." Financial Times

Publishers face Scots open access challenge
Scottish librarians are considering making it compulsory for academic research generated in Scotland to be made freely available to all over the internet in the latest move towards the open-access model that presents a challenge to traditional commercial publishers such as Reed Elsevier. The Scottish Science Information Strategy Working Group is meeting in early October to agree a declaration in support of open access.

4X4s blamed for dust that threatens world
Four-wheel-drive vehicles are contributing to an increase in dust in the atmosphere, with potentially serious consequences for human health and climate change, according to research by Andrew Goudie, professor of geography at Oxford University. There has been a tenfold increase over the past 50 years in the quantity of dust being blown across the world from part of the southern Sahara, the single greatest source of the problem, which has been made worse by an effect labelled "Toyotarisation".
Daily Telegraph, Guardian

Townies create jobs and protect village services
Large numbers of town and city dwellers who move into rural areas are creating jobs, safeguarding services and working nearer to home than their unfair stereotype allows. Aileen Stockdale of Aberdeen University told the International Geographical Union congress in Glasgow yesterday that each self-employed incomer created an average of 2.4 full-time jobs.
Daily Telegraph

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