Vocational yardstick `too crude for equal opportunity'

March 17, 1995

Vocational A-level students applying for higher education places are at a disadvantage because the grading system for the new qualification is too crude, admissions chiefs say.

Most academic registrars responding to a national survey designed to gauge their perceptions of applicants with level 3 General National Vocational Qualifications felt the GNVQ was "too blunt an instrument for selection".

More than three-quarters said the three-point GNVQ grading system, which awards a pass, merit or distinction, was inferior to the A-level point count or BTEC unit grading.

As a result, two-thirds thought applicants with GNVQs would be disadvantaged against those holding other qualifications. The survey, carried out between March and June last year by Access Education Services at the University of North London, found that over 70 per cent of institutions had received applications from students on GNVQ courses.

More than a quarter of registrars said that decisions on applications from students with GNVQs would be based on predicted grades, yet only a fifth felt the GNVQ method of grading was an improvement on current academic and vocational qualifications grading systems.

Harinder Lawley, UNL access development and compact manager and a member of the research team, said there was a danger that students who would not have applied for higher education places before GNVQ courses were created would be disadvantaged.

"The problem is that it is not clear how a GNVQ grade relates to the grading system of the traditional qualifications. There is no well-defined rate of exchange. Because A levels and BTEC qualifications have been around for a long time people know what their grades mean. That is not the case with GNVQs," she said.

But just under 70 per cent of registrars thought the GNVQ method of assessment provided an appropriate qualification and training background for entry to higher education.

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