A-level exams could face a radical change under the new coalition plans
Education secretary Michael Gove has put forward a questionable plan from the coalition that will see A-level exams set by top universities, after arguing that the current standard left the teenagers under-prepared for the degrees they were to undertake.
If the scheme is put into practice, the exam boards’ power to devise the syllabus or prepare questions and coursework for the students will be handed over to the 24 most academically competitive universities in UK, known as the Russell group.
The coalition wants the new A-levels to be introduced in 2014. The move could lead to significantly toughened A-level exams resulting in a fewer high-achieving students. Initially the changes would affect English, maths and science A-levels in England, but the trend would soon carry on to all subjects across the UK.
In his letter to Ofqual, the qualifications watchdog, Michael Gove revealed his concern towards the 300,000 pupils stating that the current qualifications “fall short of commanding the level of confidence we would like to see”.
He further justified: “I do not envisage the Department for Education having a role in the development of A-level qualifications. It is more important that universities are satisfied that A-levels enable young people to start their degrees, having gained the right knowledge and skills, than those ministers are able to influence content or methods of assessment.”
His letter coincides with research published earlier this week by Cambridge University revealing that undergraduates lacked the writing or critical-thinking skills needed for their degree courses, forcing the universities to offer booster lessons.
Million+, which represents 26 of the new universities, challenged the coalition’s decision, debating the complexity academics would have to face in preparing the exams. Pam Tatlow, chief executive of Million+, also reminded the ministers that the academics did not see the A-level system as “broken”, a statement they had made at a meeting earlier this year.