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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Diplomas 'solid university route'
computer room
Diplomas are to be introduced next year
Pupils should be able to get into top universities by taking the new Diplomas instead of the traditional A-levels, Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said.

Mr Balls admitted there was "a lot of work" to do to make sure the launch of Diplomas next year is a success.

He pointed to a surge in support for Diplomas since his predecessor warned they could "go horribly wrong".

But academics have warned students will struggle to win a university place as the new Diplomas are not hard enough.

Mr Balls said it would be crucial to see how many pupils choose to study the Diplomas, which combine theory with work experience, and whether universities and employers opened their doors to those who do.

The first 36,000 14-19 year-olds are set to begin studying the Diploma courses in engineering and four other subjects next year.

'Not complacent'

Speaking as the detail for the first Diploma in engineering was published, Mr Balls said: "This should be a route into university, college or work.

"The indications we have had are that those universities, including Russell Group universities, that have looked at this during the development stage are enthused by it."

He added: "We are not complacent. There's still a lot of work to do.

"The proof of the pudding will be in the eating - when people see the details of the diplomas in the next couple of weeks, when students and young people themselves look at this in the autumn and we see the take-up numbers for next year," he said.

"It is the publication of the diplomas themselves, the experts looking at this - universities and employers themselves - and coming forward and giving us their views that is going to be the decisive thing.

"It will be what they say which will be the most important thing in persuading parents and young people to do this."

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