Under a radical shake-up of higher education, universities will be ordered to publish previously secret information about which A-level subjects are most likely to gain places on degree courses.
The move for more transparency within the admissions process is likely to lead to a drop in ‘soft’ subjects such as media studies, art and design, dance and photography in favour of ‘tougher’ options such as English, maths, history, geography and the sciences. It follows concerns that candidates from state comprehensives are barred from elite institutions by being pushed to take easier options, while pupils at grammar and independent schools receive better advice about which A-levels will get them to their first choice university.
Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor of Exeter University and President of Universities UK said: ‘We can’t have students from poor backgrounds taking the wrong courses, but universities have not always been explicit enough in outlining which courses they accept and which they don’t.’
Earlier this year, the Russell Group (of which the University of Birmingham is part of) published lists of subjects favoured by admissions tutors. David Willetts, Universities Minister, said that he wanted all selective universities to publish this data. Willetts is also keen for universities to make “student charters” – written guarantees on issues such as the number of lectures they will receive, support and feedback from tutors, graduate job prospects, standards of accommodation and academic and sporting facilities.
This move comes as wide-ranging reforms are planned which will coincide with the increase in tuition fees next year. In a key change, it will propose scrapping existing admission quotas in favour of a more market-based approach. Other reforms include giving private education providers more incentives to run degree courses officially accredited by the Government, increasing diversity and allowing top universities to admit as many bright students – those gaining at least two As and a B at A-level – as they want, to promote competition between institutions.
The higher education white-paper will be published next week.
Written by Freddie Herzog