According to them, proposals to bar students without three Ds at A-level would hit courses such as nursing and ‘strike at heart of social mobility.’
They also stated that if government goes ahead with rumoured plans to cut tuition fees, undergraduates would experience a poorer quality of education, less mental health support and a smaller choice of degree subjects.
The ideas have been leaked from the prime minister’s review of post-18 education, chaired by Philip Augar, a former equities broker, which is expected to report next month. One idea would stop young people qualifying for a loan if they didn’t get three Ds at A-level.
Vice-chancellors argue this would be reducing student numbers “by the back door”, and damaging poorer students in the process. Dominic Shellard, head of De Montfort University stated that “This would strike at the heart of social mobility,” as it would prevent many people from the poorest backgrounds from improving their life chances by studying for a degree.
Last year nearly 8,000 UK 18-year-olds were accepted to study at university with 3Ds or lower, according to new data released by the admissions service Ucas last month. Universities say these applicants are much more likely to be from poorer families.
Shellard says these students are potentially among the best motivated: “Many students with lower A-level grades go on to do extremely well at university as they feel they’ve got something to prove.”
One of the subject areas that could suffer would be nursing. “There are already 500 nurse vacancies in our local hospitals and there will be far more after Brexit,” says Shellard.
“At a time when we will have skills shortages because of Brexit it seems crazy to be talking about rigging the market even more and reducing our ability to train people.” He continued.
“My fear is that we are going to end up with fewer people going to university, less social inclusion, less diversity, more elitism and a greatly denuded sector.” He added.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, a thinktank, also added to the thought—calling it a “catastrophic policy”.
“It will hit entrants from the poorest backgrounds disproportionately. You might have missed 3Ds because you’ve been at a poor performing school,” he stated.