GCSEs are the ‘new 11-plus’ with leading universities using them to weed out degree candidates

The Mail is reporting warnings from an Oxford tutor that GCSEs have become the ‘new 11-plus’ as top universities increasingly using them as a way to weed out candidates for degree courses with potential unfair consequences for ‘late bloomers’ and disadvantaged students…

Dr Peter Claus warned that the approach disadvantages late bloomers in the same way as the 11-plus, which determines entrants to grammar schools.

Dr Claus, a historian based at Pembroke College, admitted that Oxford was ‘as guilty as anybody else in that’.

Advice to candidates from the university states that it ‘could not be optimistic of an applicant’s chances of gaining a place at Oxford without a high percentage of A* and A grades at GCSE’.

Dr Claus admitted that, as a late starter, he would have failed to reach Oxford’s high GCSE standards himself.

Many of the most sought-after courses at other competitive universities use high GCSE grades as a filter to decide which candidates to shortlist.

But critics are concerned that this approach could harm the chances of students who blossom post-16, particularly those from less well-off backgrounds or lower-performing schools, who may be unaware of the high GCSE entry requirements needed for the top universities.

The GCSE is turning into a kind of the new grammar school 11-plus type of qualification,’ Dr Claus told a conference held last week by The Brilliant Club, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to get bright pupils from non-selective schools into leading universities…

Dr Claus, an ‘access’ fellow at Pembroke who champions initiatives to broaden the mix of undergraduates, said he originally achieved three O-levels but went ‘back into the education system’ to gain more qualifications.

‘You can’t really do that now,’ he said.

But Dr Claus rejected a controversial proposal from a fellow speaker at the conference, Professor Patrick McGhee, who called for leading universities to apply a ‘systematic or blanket’ approach to admissions to increase their intake of disadvantaged pupils.

It would raise the prospect of applicants’ results being adjusted upwards according to various contextual factors, such as the overall performance of their school.

Professor McGhee, assistant vice-chancellor of the University of Bolton, said contextual data should be used ‘systematically despite the Russell Group saying that a systematic or blanket approach to the use of contextual data is problematic’…

‘The reason a systematic access weighting is problematic is it takes away autonomy from the academics,’ he said.

‘I’m not in favour of that because if you start down that road the barbarians will soon be dancing on the table, I’m really not interested in that.’…

More at: GCSEs are the ‘new 11-plus’ with leading universities using them to weed out degree candidates (but is that fair for late bloomers who perform well at A-level?)


Several questions here: have GCSE results become too important in terms of university access? Would a more rounded picture emerge if the university admissions process was conducted after A level results instead of before? And what about the idea touched upon for a blanket approach based on contextual data as proposed by Professor McGhee?Would that be better and take away all the possible biases of admissions tutors? Please give us your thoughts and feedback in the comments or via Twitter…


Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin every morning (around 7 am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link!

Study shows celebrity-backed scheme inspires struggling readers
Schools get extra £20m to help adopted children
Categories: Higher Education.

Let us know what you think...