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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 17:39 GMT
University concern over new A-levels
students
The A-level changes have affected universities
The decision to change the structure of A-levels but to retain the name A-level has led to confusion over standards, the higher education sector warned.

In a submission to an independent review of the new curriculum, universities said they had "virtually no involvement" in the development of the new qualifications.


Decisions to retain the name 'A-level' but change the structure have affected the understanding of what constitutes an A level

HE sector submission
Curriculum 2000 - which came into force for young people starting in the sixth form in the autumn term 2000 - saw the traditional A-level broken down into AS-levels, taken after one year's study, and A2s, taken after two year's study.

Following problems with the grading of AS and A-levels this summer, the HE sector was asked to present its views on the saga to the chair of the independent inquiry into the affair, Mike Tomlinson.

Mr Tomlinson, former chief inspector of England's schools, produced an interim report on 27 September which led to the upgrading of almost 2,000 students' A-level and AS-level results.

The second part of his review - due to be published this month - is to report on how the standard of A-levels can be maintained and their credibility secured.

Mike Tomlinson
The universities are putting their views to Mr Tomlinson
In a joint submission to the Tomlinson inquiry, the umbrella group Universities UK, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) and the Standing Conference of Principals said that since A-levels were first introduced in 1951, the qualification had changed substantially.

"Decisions to retain the name 'A-level' but change the structure have affected the understanding of what constitutes an A level, including both format and standard," the submission says.

One exam board

The three organisations also suggest there should be just one exam board in England, rather than the current three - Edexcel, AQA and OCR.

The sector says this would help speed up and streamline the university admissions process.

"At present, a plethora of different practices and formats adopted by individual awarding bodies militates against efficient and effective processes used within Ucas and its member institutions," the submission says.

"If less, there would also be fewer specifications, timetabling clashes, a shorter marking time, and faster provision of results."

The HE sector also points out to Mr Tomlinson that the addition of the AS-level had increased the work involved in processing students' results.

"The issue of flexibility in respect of AS certification also needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, as the option to take a result or not is leading to unnecessary confusion for applicants and higher education institutions alike," the three bodies warn.

Mr Tomlinson is due to publish the second part of his review later this month.

The alleged A-level grades manipulation

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