1994 Group statement on A-level reforms

Alex Bols, Executive Director of the 1994 Group, said:

"Today's letter from Michael Gove to Ofqual heightens our concerns that A-level reforms are being pushed through with very little genuine consultation with the sector, despite the Secretary of State’s noted desire for universities to take greater ownership of A-levels.

"Involvement from the whole of the sector is absolutely crucial to ensuring that the reformed A-levels benefit from the expertise of the very best academics who have a wealth of experience in their subject areas and in assessment methods. These individuals come from a wide variety of institutions.

"Furthermore, as we have previously noted, academics already engage in the design of A-level specifications, so the key issue is to now ensure that this process is transparent and involves the right balance of experts from across the sector. Both the name and membership of any advisory group or committee must reflect these principles.

"In particular, we would welcome further details from the DfE on the functioning of the advisory group, and their expectations for the criteria that will determine involvement by certain institutions. Collective agreement should be reached on who is to provide the steering role for the group—this could come from a broadly representative body such as Universities UK.

"We would also welcome clarity on the role of non-core subjects in the review process—A-levels serve more than just university admissions departments, and we must protect the interests of those who choose alternative routes. It would be a great shame if a two-tier system of oversight emerged from the reform process.

"We agree that there is room to make helpful changes to A-levels that will increase stretch and challenge, and we welcomed the move to limit resit opportunities announced in September. However, the proposed changes to AS levels are extremely concerning. Many universities’ admissions departments use AS performance to guide admissions decisions, and reliance on alternative evidence, such as school references, could have detrimental consequences for widening participation.

"Our universities are committed to engaging in the process of securing high-quality A-levels for future generations of students. But, we must ensure that the process is transparent, balanced and occurs on an appropriate timescale".

Media Contact

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Notes to Editors

1. Last year the 1994 Group responded to Ofqual's consultation on A-level reform. We have now published the full response online.

2. The 1994 Group represents 11 leading smaller universities. It was founded to promote excellence in research and teaching. According to the most recent assessments, 88% of its members’ research is internationally recognised (RAE 2008) and 88% of its members’ students were satisfied with their university experiences (NSS 2012). In 2011, its members added £1.7bn to the UK economy, fulfilled over 1800 research contracts for business, and held stakes in 34 spin-out companies.

3. 6 of the top 30 universities in the Guardian University Guide 2013 are 1994 Group members; 7 of the top 30 universities in the Complete University Guide 2012 are 1994 Group members; 11 of the UK’s top-ranked research departments are in 1994 members, and all its members have a top-3 rated department for research excellence.

4. The 1994 Group represents Birkbeck, University of London; the University of East Anglia; the University of Essex; Goldsmiths, University of London; the Institute of Education, University of London; Royal Holloway, University of London; Lancaster University; the University of Leicester; Loughborough University; the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the University of Sussex.

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