Statement on A level choices following Sunday Times article of 6 January 2008

07 February 2008

Responding to a Sunday Times article published today (6 January 2008) about student A Level choices, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of The Russell Group, issued a clarification statement stressing that Russell Group universities emphasise the combination of A Levels taken for a particular course, rather than individual A Level choices. She pointed out that no Russell Group institution "bars" any particular A Level subject.*

Dr Piatt said: "Russell Group universities are increasing and improving the information they provide for potential students about the qualifications and skills they need to be successful in pursuing their chosen course. They now offer clear recommendations on the package of A Levels (or equivalent) which would give the candidate the best grounding for a particular course and which would be a less ideal combination of A Levels.”

“Our institutions are now posting ‘entry profiles’ on the UCAS website giving detailed guidance to learners as early as Year 11 on how they might best tailor their post-16 study to their HE needs,” said Dr Piatt.

“It is crucial that pupils are given accurate information, advice and guidance when making choices which will affect their life chances. It is particularly important that pupils from families who haven’t been to university, or who have less knowledge about higher education than others are given robust support and guidance at school.

“There is fierce competition for places at Russell Group universities - particularly for courses like Medicine, English and Law. In many cases all candidates have three As – and increasingly four As – and some show outstanding talent which is not reflected in their grades.

“It is difficult for admissions tutors to choose between such excellent candidates. Students must not disadvantage themselves by choosing a combination of subjects at A Level which will not equip them as well as other subjects to excel on their chosen course, or which do not demonstrate as effectively as others their aptitude for a particular subject.

“Clearly if pupils from certain state schools are increasingly taking a combination of subjects which put them at a disadvantage in competing for a course at a Russell Group university, the task of widening participation in our universities becomes even more difficult," she added.

* General Studies and Critical Thinking are not normally accepted as approved subjects for entry purposes.


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