Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 13:20 UK

Tutors 'cynical' over Diplomas

Graduation ceremony
There is increasing competition for university places

Students are unlikely to get into university with the new Diploma alone, government-backed research suggests.

Admissions tutors and managers at the most competitive universities were likely to question the academic rigour of the qualification for England.

They were said to be "quite cynical" and "cautious" about the qualification.

The 19 institutions surveyed would accept candidates with Diplomas but most would need at least one A-level too, the Exeter University study said.

Extra exams

The university applications service Ucas deems one Advanced Diploma to be the equivalent of 3.5 A-Levels.

The University of Exeter study said: "Senior managers and admissions tutors in all but two of the 19 institutions anticipated specifying Additional and or Specialist Learning, normally in the form of an A-Level.

"Related to this, institutions would be publishing during 2009 specific requirements for entry onto their undergraduate courses in 2010 by Diploma-holding entrants."

This tariff was accepted by all but one of institutions surveyed - a research-intensive university.

Nonetheless, the report found the design of the Diploma was "well aligned" with developments in undergraduate teaching and learning.

And all types of higher education institutions surveyed welcomed the breadth of learning inherent in the Diplomas and their potential to attract students from non-traditional university backgrounds.

It is important to remember that the surveys for this report were carried out in 2008, during the first year of Diploma delivery
Diana Johnson
Schools minister

It said their success as a pathway to higher education was dependent on good teaching and delivery in schools and colleges.

The Diplomas are one of Labour's most radical reforms to the education of 14 to 19-year-olds.

They combine the study of a specialist area, with work experience and the learning of English and maths.

Five Diplomas in creative and media; information technology; health and social care; construction and the built environment, and engineering are already on offer.

And a further five new Diplomas are being introduced this September.

They will be in manufacturing and product design; business, administration and finance; hair and beauty; environmental and land-based studies, and hospitality.

All will combine theoretical learning with knowledge of industry and practical experience.

So far, provisional figures show that three times as many students as last year have applied to study for a Diploma starting in September.

Schools minister Diana Johnson said the overall message of the report was positive.

"It is important to remember that the surveys for this report were carried out in 2008, during the first year of Diploma delivery and two years before any Diploma students will enter higher education in 2010.

"The more universities see of Diplomas and Diploma candidates the more they welcome the knowledge, skills and experience they can bring to undergraduate study."

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