More school pupils are applying to go to university with Btecs

Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
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RISING NUMBERS of would-be students are applying to university without the traditional set of three A-levels, according to Ucas.

A report published today by the admissions service suggests that more candidates are opting for alternative qualifications, such as Btecs, either alone or alongside A-levels.

It warns that there are more qualifications available to young people than ever before, and the new system is not yet fully understood by students and universities.

Overall, A-levels are still the most popular and successful route into higher education, the study notes, with just under two thirds (63 per cent) of UK 18-year-olds applying for degree courses last year studying for three A-levels - seen as the traditional gateway into university.

But figures show that in 2015, 15 per cent of all 18-year-old applicants were studying for a Btec - a work-related course - either alone or in combination with A-levels. This is up from 11 per cent in 2011.

New statistics published by Ucas also show that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all English students accepted into higher education last year - nearly 250,000 people - held at least one Btec, compared to 14 per cent - just over 50,000 students, in 2008. In a foreword to the report, Ucas chief Mary Curnock Cook says there has been a shift in the types of qualifications with which many young people are applying to university, with a significant minority applying with “newer and less traditional qualifications or through less straightforward routes”. “It has become clear to Ucas that the opportunities and challenges of this change are not yet well understood by learners, parents, teachers or providers,” she warns. In England, reforms have included the introduction of Tech levels as well as the move to separate AS-levels from A-levels to form a standalone qualification, the report says, while in Scotland around 25 per cent-30 per cent of students are now studying for Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND) qualifications, which come with a guarantee that students can go on a full degree if they wish to.

It comes as new research suggests some teenagers may be missing out on places at top universities because they are not receiving the right advice when making their applications. There is a difference between what a teacher believes makes a good personal statement and the view of a university admissions tutor, new research suggests. Personal statements are a document completed by students as part of their applications in which they can set out their skills, achievements and why they are right for a particular degree course. The statements are used by admissions tutors to decide which candidates to award offers to. The small-scale study, published by the Sutton Trust, involved 44 state-educated students, with 27 receiving help with their statements, such as activities to encourage them to analyse academic materials, and advice on creating statements that showed their suitability for a degree and where appropriate, analysis of work placements. The other 17 students were used as a control group.

All 27 students who received guidance gained at least one offer from a Russell Group university - considered among the best institutions in the UK, compared to 73 per cent of those in the control group, the research found. And 60 per cent of those in the study group went on to be accepted on to a course at one of these universities, compared with 40 per cent of those in the control group.