So much for A-level ‘rigour’: universities are taking anyone

Laura McInerney, writing in the Guardian, suggests that some universities are handing out unconditional offers and no longer seem to care if some pupils do not complete their A levels

Four years ago schools were told everything they did would have to change. There would be a new national curriculum, new GCSEs, a new style of A-level. The assessments they used would be torn up and thrown in the bin. Why? Partly because the then education secretary, Michael Gove, felt like it, but mostly – they were told – because without more “rigour” universities would continue having to pick up the pieces when poorly educated students crossed their thresholds…

Four years on, while schools groan under the workload of rewriting every part of their practice, universities are handing out unconditional offers like confetti – suggesting that far from being worried about providing remedial work for students, some no longer even care if these students complete their A-levels at all.

Earlier this year a survey by the University and College Union found one in 10 admissions staff said their university was making unconditional offers based on predicted grades alone… At least eight students started their degrees without achieving any As. Several achieved Ds or Es in at least one subject.

Does this matter?…

If universities see potential in these pupils, why not let them in with lower grades?…Universities aren’t making these decisions to upset schools. It’s simply a matter of market forces. New government rules mean they can recruit unlimited numbers and get the cash for doing so, which unfortunately means that just as schools are pushing for rigour, universities are getting incentives to bring their entry bars down…

More about why this matters at So much for A-level ‘rigour’: universities are taking anyone 


Does Laura McInerney make a valid point here about the approach to conditional offers being taken by increasing numbers of universities?

What impact, if any, are you seeing?

Please share your insights and experiences in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Higher Education and Secondary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Bums on seats and book balancing is as much (if not more) of an issue. When MPs say “improving standards”, assume opposite

  2. PsychstudyWiggs

    SchoolsImprove Impact on schools with sixth forms? Why should students with uncon offers push to make maximum progress? #OfstedJudgements

  3. This is old news – we knew this would happen in 2014 as soon as the universities started offering unconditional places. Some students switch off – even stop going to college. It’s not rocket science! Ask any post-16 provider – it’s happening everywhere. Another great initiative, eh?

  4. FionaTipper

    SchoolsImprove this kind of story plus ‘exams are too easy’ are so demoralising to the majority who have to work hard for exams and offers

  5. MadgeJesss

    SchoolsImprove So unfair when places offered to students who are not equipped for courses. e.g. science courses and their maths is weak.

  6. LearntSchool

    FionaTipper SchoolsImprove I didn’t take my unconditional cos it scared me that, if I did, I’d have stopped school & done something real.

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