Universities take little interest in 14-19 diplomas, study finds

May 15, 2008

Higher education's direct involvement in the Government's 14-19 diploma programme is "patchy and piecemeal", according to a study from the Central London Learning and Skills Council.

There is little evidence of universities working with schools and colleges on the progression route from the new qualification to degree courses or of academics taking an active role in curriculum development or serving on working parties set up by diploma development partnerships, the report says.

The study, by Graeme Atherton, manager for Aimhigher Central London, and consultant Dafydd Thorne, examined the society, health and development diploma. The qualification is one of the first five diplomas to be taught, starting in September.

"It is hard to see how the advanced diplomas will become seen as a widely accepted route into higher education unless higher education gets more involved in the development and selling of them," Mr Thorne said. "You could argue that it is early days and that higher education is waiting to see what happens before getting involved.

"On the other hand, the first wave of diplomas is being developed by partnerships selected on, among other things, the quality of their links with higher education.

"If these are the partnerships with the best links, then, by definition, the picture can only get worse down the line," Mr Thorne said.

The report, which looked at the engagement with the diploma in two London boroughs, found that there had been no formal discussion in higher education institutions about how the new qualification will be viewed by admissions tutors.

Although the diploma will have a tariff equivalent to three and a half A levels, the report says there are suggestions "that four A levels are now the norm for any student serious about progressing to a prestigious higher education programme".

The report explored reasons for poor engagement with higher education, including a lack of strategic leadership from senior management and uncertainties about the diploma.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

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