A-levels alive and well at UCL
4 June 2008
UCL President and Provost, Professor Malcolm Grant, said today that UCL intends to continue to place significant reliance upon A-level results in selecting high-quality students for admissions. Over the past year, UCL has undertaken a root and branch review of its admissions policies and procedures and it has no plans to introduce a university-wide aptitude test.
Yesterday Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College, commented to the Independent Schools Conference that A-levels had become almost worthless as a way of discriminating between talented and well-drilled students, and that Imperial College would therefore be introducing an entrance exam for all applicants. The comments have been widely reported in the media, and in light of this, UCL wishes to clarify its own position on admissions.
In a keynote speech to the Independent Schools Conference this morning, Professor Grant emphasised that A-level results were not - and never had been - a test applied mechanically by the UK's leading selecting universities. These universities shared a common mission to ensure that the most able and talented candidates could find entry, whatever their social and educational background. Admissions tutors were skilled at reviewing a wide range of factors in making intelligent selection. They were accustomed to taking other qualifications into account, including the International Baccalaureate. In addition, UCL was making limited use of focused aptitude tests for entry to Law and Medicine, but was aware that aptitude tests are not a simple panacea and need to be approached with considerable caution.
Professor Grant added that neither did he perceive that rising standards of performance in A-levels (over 11% of students scored three or more As last year) were making things more difficult. More data was available than simply the headlines scores, including raw marks for component modules, and a number of further changes are being introduced from September this year, including the introduction of an A* grade.
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