Students ‘set up to fail’ by universities

Leading universities may be setting students up to fail by admitting applicants with D grades at A-level in a bid to fill places, a leading vice-chancellor has warned. This is from the Telegraph…

Some members of the elite Russell Group have been forced to “significantly drop” entry requirements to plug a shortfall in demand for degree courses, according to Prof Sir Christopher Snowden.

The academic – the incoming president of Universities UK (UUK), the vice-chancellors’ group – said a number of institutions advertised places for students with A and B grades last year but took in teenagers with Cs and Ds to prevent courses lying empty.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, he said the move was a reflection of problems faced by top universities after a rise in fees, toughening up of A-levels and changes to student number controls led to a drop in the number of well-qualified applicants.

Sir Christopher, vice-chancellor of Surrey University, which has adopted a strict B-grade threshold, said institutions were attempting to avoid a repeat this year but insisted there was “no guarantee” this would happen.

It comes after the publication of figures suggested that Britain’s 24 Russell Group institutions started the academic year with around 11,500 vacancies last September.

This year, several universities have advertised scholarships worth up to £10,000 a year to convince the brightest students to accept places.

Birmingham – a Russell Group member – also announced it would make 1,000 “unconditional” offers to gifted students.

But Sir Christopher, who will lead UUK from August, said any move to lower entry requirements to fill places risked damaging students’ morale and increasing the risk of undergraduates receiving a poor degree.

He also cautioned against downgrading offers for students from poor-performing schools and deprived backgrounds to hit government targets, saying places should be awarded on “merit”. “If you take a student into a university you should give them every opportunity to graduate,” he said.

“If you put students who are too weak in with a cohort that’s very strong, they are unlikely to prosper. You are not setting them up for success so it is not a reasonable thing to do. ”

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