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Govt to give universities control over A-levels

03/04/2012 Joanna
Responsibility for setting the material covered by A-level courses could be transferred from exam boards and the Department for Education to leading universities.

Education secretary Michael Gove has written a letter to examinations watchdog Ofqual proposing the idea in a bid to better prepare students for university education.

Ofqual has offered Mr Gove its backing and will soon publish a report on higher education and A-levels.

Mr Gove has argued that universities are heavily critical of the quality of undergraduate students and complain that they are not properly equipped for a degree by the current A-levels.

His announcement comes amid continuing improvements in A-level grades and the time-worn belief that exams are getting easier.

The Conservative Party MP wants exam boards to still set courses, but says that schools should only enter their pupils if the courses are approved by top universities, the BBC reported.

Under the proposals, ministers or the Department for Education would not play a role in setting A-level content.

"It is more important that universities are satisfied that A-levels enable young people to start their undergraduate degrees having gained the right knowledge and skills," Mr Gove wrote.

He added that he wants A-levels to give young people the best possible preparation for university and to do this they need to offer a deeper and wider education to allow students to excel when they arrive at university.

"I will expect the bar to be a high one: university ownership of the exams must be real and committed, not a tick-box exercise," he said.

Despite having the backing of Ofqual on the matter, teaching unions are sceptical.

General secretary of the NUT, Christine Blower, criticised the education secretary for not consulting people in teaching jobs before contacting Ofqual.

"Not only would it have been courteous it would also, more importantly, have been the most sensible approach," she said.

While conceding that improving A-levels should be considered, she believes that improving critical thinking in young people right across education is more worthwhile than simply focussing on A-levels.

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