The Cambridge Pre-U: Increasing the divide?

Another alternative to A-levels, the Cambridge Pre-U, is emerging as a further distinction of difference. This is from the Independent

…The Pre-U is an alternative to A-Levels, created by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) specifically to prepare students for university.

This September, 150 schools across the country will have registered to offer the Pre-U to students, cementing a seven per cent rise in Pre-U uptake in ‘principal’ subjects.

Despite this, universities have been slow to embrace the qualification. The Russell Group, after an initially warm repose to the qualification when it launched in 2008, has now appeared as less sure of its position. A spokesperson for the group was keen to emphasise that the Russell Group was not responsible for admissions policies and entrance requirements of member universities.

The qualification first came together after a number of independent schools approached the organisation requesting a curriculum that was ‘intellectually exciting’, high quality, and which allowed teachers to make education exciting, according to Michael O’Sullivan, chief executive of the CIE.

Despite the impetus for the qualification stemming from the private education section, he dismissed the suggestion the Pre-U was a qualification dominated by independent and top-flight grammar schools, stating there are schools of all categories.

The CIE declined to release a full list of the schools offering the Pre-U, however, Petchley Academy, the Skinners Academy, and Fortismere School are among the state schools who do offer the qualification.  Petchley Academy and Fortismere schools received a ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ respectively on Ofsted reports from the last year.

…The Pre-U is available in 27 individual, or principal, subjects. The top tier of achievement, D1, is ranked higher than the equivalent A* in A-Level. The qualification is divided into three sections, D (Distinction), M (Merit), and P (Pass), and then further split into grades of 1, 2, or 3.

…Although students are now coming to university with the Pre-U, many do so only as an additional subject to their qualifications. A spokesperson for Oxford University stated that although they do make offers to around 80 school-leavers with the Pre-U each year; these were mainly in combination with A-Levels taken alongside the newer qualification.

Pre-U’s expansion comes as reports indicate that the number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university has decreased in the past decade.

More at:  The Cambridge Pre-U: Increasing the divide?

Is this something your school offers is has considered offering? What do you think about it? And is it, as the article suggests, another way of separating more privileged candidates from the rest? Please share your insights in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Secondary.


  1. FionaTipper

    SchoolsImprove IB is decades older and unis only just fully understanding that, they need to see many cohorts to assess a new qualification

  2. FionaTipper

    SchoolsImprove IB offers are disproportionately high, so there may be a divide but its not in favour of the newer qualifications

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Is this a reaction to the constant political tampering of exams and their results upon which to base a political argument?

  4. tutorhouse

    SchoolsImprove Really interesting article guys,1 issue (which parents aren’t happy about) is re-taking the Pre-U if all doesn’t go to plan.

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