Universities should not lower entry grades to 'relieve anxiety' for students, warns Yorkshire higher education leader

Simply lowering entry requirements for A-level students in their efforts to compensate for disruption caused by the pandemic will not necessarily benefit students, a vice-chancellor from Yorkshire has said.

Professor Shirley Congdon, the University of Bradford’s vice-chancellor, said reducing the entry grades required will not necessarily benefit the students who have faced the greatest disruption to learning due to school and college closures.

Read More

Read More
Student mass Covid testing begins across Yorkshire universities for Spring term ...

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"Our entry requirements reflect what we consider is needed for students to be able to succeed on our programmes. We would not, therefore, lower our entry standards in response to the pandemic," said Professor Congdon who is also the chairwoman of the Yorkshire Universities group.

Pictured, students from the North of England receiving their A-level results in the Summer last year. Photo credit: JPIMediaResell

Her comments come after Birmingham and Surrey universities announced plans to reduce entry requirements by one grade for most courses in 2021 to recognise Covid-19 disruption.

Since then, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that GCSE, AS and A-level exams in England will not go ahead this summer and they will be replaced by teacher assessments due to the impact of the pandemic.

The University of Bradford has said it will not lower entry requirements for 2021, but it will review schools' submissions about the challenges students have faced due to Covid-19 alongside their applications.

Prof Congdon said: “In assessing whether applicants meet our entry requirements, we are focussed on ensuring fairness to applicants through a flexible and inclusive approach that is understanding of the wider context, including the challenges created by the current pandemic.

Pictured, Professor Shirley Congdon, the University of Bradford’s vice-chancellor. Photo credit: JPIMediaResell

She added she would encourage any applicants who have questions about meeting the entry requirements for the University of Bradford programmes to get in touch directly to discuss their "particular circumstances”.

The comments come ahead of the Ucas application deadline for the majority of courses, which has been extended until January 29 following the Government's decision to instruct students to study from home.

A spokesman from Yorkshire Universities said it is vital that "every step," is taken to support young people, particularly those from disadvantaged communities and those impacted by the disruptions to learning.

He said: "Crucially, we need to maximise the time to build up content knowledge amongst candidates, and adopt a robust approach to the moderation of teacher/centre assessment.

The University of Bradford has said it will not lower entry requirements for 2021. Photo credit: The University of Bradford

"Such actions, alongside other contextual factors, would enable the 2021 admissions process to be underpinned by sound judgements for individual students and groups."

The Yorkshire Post approached all Yorkshire universities for comment in regards to any extra measures they will be taking, including whether they will be lowering grades.

In earlier developments for universities

Meanwhile Professor Nishan Canagarajah, the University of Leicester's vice-chancellor, warned that students who are admitted on lower grades could struggle without "basic knowledge" when they arrive.

Prof Canagarajah said reducing the entry grades required will not necessarily benefit the students who have faced the greatest disruption to learning due to school and college closures.

Instead, universities should look at contextual information provided by schools in applications and offer transition support to bridge gaps in learning, he said.

The University of Leicester has said it will not lower entry requirements for 2021, but it will trust teachers' judgments as they know their students best.

The institution will review schools' submissions about the challenges students have faced due to Covid-19 alongside their applications.

"What we need to do is to make sure they have the right knowledge to come into one of the universities and that's what we're trying to do," Prof Canagarajah said.

Leicester will offer transition support to A-level students to ensure they are fully supported and ready to start university in the autumn.

Prof Canagarajah said: "The key thing we want to ensure is that our admissions process is fair and put the students first.

"And the second priority is that when they come to university they should be able to benefit from the university education.

"So just lowering the grades and bringing them in doesn't solve the problem, because they may still struggle without the basic knowledge."

Prof Canagarajah added when it comes to admissions he was urging all universities to focus on "fairness," to ensure students can still reach their full potential and achieve the grades they deserve.

"We are not driving down students' ambition," he said.

In November, the University of Surrey announced grade requirements would be lowered to help "relieve the pressure and anxiety" faced by young people who will have seen their learning affected across two academic years.

Previously the University of Birmingham announced plans to reduce entry requirements for 2021 by one grade in recognition of the impact of Covid-19 on A-level students.

Additional reporting PA media.

________________

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today.

Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.