A radical reform of university entry requirements which could mean the end of present-day specialist sixth-forms is likely to be recommended by a working party made up of representatives of universities and schools.
The working party is headed by Professor Butler of Imperial College London, and was set up by the Standing Conference of University Entrance and the Schools Council 18 months ago. It has been studying proposals for a general curriculum which would leave sixth-formers with as many career options as possible as late as possible in their school career.
One of the recommendations which is almost certain to emerge from their discussions is for a new intermediate examination, which would replace A-levels and be taken a year earlier - at 17 instead of 18. Universities would then be able to choose their students on the basis of their results in this new I-level examination.
The new examination would be taken in five subjects under the scheme, which is known to be favoured by several members of the working party. One subject would have to be English language or literature, and another mathematics or a branch of science. Sixth-formers who took the new examination would not take O-levels.
The advantage of this scheme is that early specialisation in sixth-forms would be eliminated. Comprehensive schools that lack the specialist staff to teach in sixth-forms will also welcome the proposal. But, for the same reason, it is certain to be bitterly opposed in schools that are well equipped to teach to A-level standard. So far the universities have shown no eagerness for such ideas.
But the I-level scheme would make things much easier for the Universities Central Council on Admissions, which next year will have to process more than 640,000 applications.