Vice chancellor cautions against lowering entry requirements

Monday 11th January 2021 08:05 EST

A vice-chancellor has cautioned universities against lowering entry requirements for A-level students as they attempt to ward of the disruption caused by coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah from the University of Leicester has warned that lowering entry grades required will not benefit the students in the long run as they can potentially struggle without "basic knowledge" when they arrive. His warnings appear after Birmingham and Surrey universities announced recent plans to reduce entry requirements by one grade for most courses in 2021. Most recently, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also announced that GCSE, AS and A-level exams in England will not go ahead this summer as planned and they will be replaced by teacher assessments instead.

The debate around opening and closing of the schools in a bid to stem the increase in infections has also been a massive point of concern for both the parents and their children. But uncertainty and lack of clarity around examinations and the grading process had resulted in massive chaos last year following which the government was forced to make a U-turn and replace Ofqual’s algorithmic assessment with Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) instead. Now, in his interview with the PA news agency, Professor Canagarajah has advised that universities should consider the contextual information provided by schools in applications and offer transition support to bridge gaps in their academics. The University of Leicester has said it will not lower entry requirements for 2021, but it will trust teachers' judgments as they know their students best. The institution will review schools’ submissions about the challenges that the students have faced due to Covid-19 alongside their applications.

Prof Canagarajah told PA, “What we need to do is to make sure they have the right knowledge to come into one of the universities and that’s what we’re trying to do. The key thing we want to ensure is that our admissions process is fair and put the students first. And the second priority is that when they come to university, they should be able to benefit from the university education. So just lowering the grades and bringing them in doesn’t solve the problem, because they may still struggle without the basic knowledge.”

Leicester will offer transition support to A-level students to ensure they are fully supported and ready to start university in the autumn.

The UCAS application deadline for the majority of courses has been extended until January 29.

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