University of Cambridge speaks out against Gove’s A-level reforms

Jocelyn Major 23 January 2014

Cambridge has warned that Michael Gove’s reforms to the A-level system will make it more difficult for pupils in England to get into university, compared to their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

In a bid to allow students to study their subject in greater depth, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, plans to get rid of AS-levels.

Gove stated that the change would “allow students to develop a better understanding of their subject through the greater maturity that will be developed over two years of study”.

However, the University of Cambridge has hit back, suggesting that pupils from other parts of the UK, where AS-level exams are being retained, will have an advantage over English applicants when applying for university.

In its response to an Ofqual consultation on A-level reform, Cambridge stated, “We are extremely concerned that students in England will be disadvantaged in light of the decision in Wales and Northern Ireland to retain Year 12 assessment”.

If AS-level exams are removed, universities will be forced to rely on GCSE and predicted A-level grades. A spokesperson from the University of Cambridge noted that predicted grades were “not terribly accurate”.

The university is further concerned that students will find it harder to choose which universities they should apply to without a good idea of their academic standard at A-level.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has supported calls by the University of Cambridge to keep AS Level exams. The Vice President of the NUS, Joe Vinson, commented: “Further education should offer students the opportunity to explore what they want in life and who they want to be. This is why decoupling the A-Level and AS Level is a bad idea – it strips young people of the ability to take their time in making important life decisions.”

“It will also be harder for universities to make admission offers to students without AS-Level grades.”

In March 2013, CUSU issued the Department for Education with a petition against Gove’s reforms signed by 1,600 students and faculty members.

A first year cantab said, “Although having both AS and A-level exams puts pressure on students for two consecutive years, it did help me decide which subject to do at university and gave me more confidence to apply here.”