Ucas says that early 'lack of direction' is OK

June 30, 2000

Students who include a mixture of courses on their university application form should not be penalised for lacking direction, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

The new post-16 qualifications, which will be taken by students eligible for higher education in September 2002, will allow students to take a broader range of subjects.

"It may therefore be more common for students to mix choices of course on their form and to keep their options open until accepting offers, typically in the spring before entry," states Ucas guidance to admissions staff, which was issued this week.

Universities and colleges could attract more applicants by offering students the opportunity to sample a range of subjects before they specialise.

"Other (students) may choose to keep their options open for even longer by opting for modular or combined higher education programmes, or those with a common first year of study," the advice continues.

Ucas warns that institutions should be aware that the post-16 curriculum changes will have an impact on higher education curricula.

"It is likely that the changes in schools and further education will affect at least the first year of higher education programmes and it may be necessary to review the entry thresholds for three and four-year degree courses, sub-degree courses and foundation years," states the Ucas advice.

An Ucas survey of 2,000 schools and colleges found that 83 per cent of students will sit four of the new AS-level exams next year before taking three A2-level exams in May 2002.

Tony Higgins, chief executive of Ucas, said: "Our survey shows that nine out of ten A-level students will already have AS qualifications when they apply for university or college next year, which means admissions officers will be able to make decisions based on AS results as well as predicted A-level grades."

The survey also revealed how different types of school will treat the new curriculum. Key skills will be taught in more than 90 per cent of colleges and comprehensive schools but in only 72 per cent of grammar and independent schools. The new vocational A levels will be offered in 80 per cent of colleges and comprehensives but in only 20 per cent of grammar and 10 per cent of independent schools.

The new extension papers will be offered in just 16 subjects, mainly languages and science subjects. A quarter of independent schools will offer them, far more than any other type of school.

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