Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 01:33 UK

More Diploma courses are launched

Diploma student
It is hoped that 40,000 students will take Diplomas

The number of vocational Diploma courses available to students in England has doubled from five to 10.

The government wants the Diploma to become a core qualification in the education system, viewed to be as valid as A-levels and GCSEs.

The new diplomas are in land-based and environmental studies, hair and beauty, manufacturing, hospitality and catering business administration and finance.

The qualification is being rolled out across England.

It is hoped enrolments will rise from 12,000 to about 40,000.

The Diploma was introduced last Autumn for 14 to 19-year-olds, initially offering five subjects: creative and media, information technology, health and social care, construction and the built environment and engineering.

Rigorous

It was intended to include a strong vocational element with extended periods of work experience, so students connected what they were learning to their chances of getting a job.

Ministers were also at pains to emphasise that core skills such as maths and English would be a central part of every course.

They said an advanced level Diploma would be the equivalent of three and a half A-levels, rigorous enough to get students into university.

But, last week government-backed research suggested students are unlikely to get into university with the new Diploma alone.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

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 students would need to undertake some additional specialist learning as part of the Diploma - most likely in the form of an A-level as well, the Exeter University study said.



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