A Levels don’t pass A. C. Grayling’s test

Rebecca Alldridge 13 February 2014

Professor A. C. Grayling this week announced that the New College of the Humanities is to start making unconditional offers, choosing to judge students based on interview and past exam performance rather than on A level results. This comes as he voices concerns that A levels have become an exercise in box-ticking.

The New College of the Humanities is an elite college in central London specialising in subjects including Philosophy, Law, History and Politics. The announced changes will be applicable to applicants in the 2014 admissions cycle.

Grayling explained that the decision follows concerns that A level exams in humanities subjects fail to properly value “individual judgment, interpretation, and creative thinking”.

He pointed out that when it comes to questions such as the causes of World War One or Kantian metaphysics “there are very few right or wrong answers”.

“A level marking has become more standardised, prescriptive and a question of the boxes that need to be ticked… there are now very good students who aren’t getting A*s and As because they are a little bit too creative.” 

This change has already been adopted by some leading Russell Group universities including Birmingham and Nottingham who are awarding places irrespective of students’ final A level grades, a trend seem by Grayling as evidence of “increasing mistrust of the value of A levels”.