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Credit for taking A-level course

In future students may be awarded points which count towards

university entry without even sitting the exam. Jon Slater reports.

STUDENTS who fail to finish their A-levels will still receive points towards university entrance, under plans being considered by the university admissions service.

The change would reward students who pass as little as one-sixth of an A level, the size of a single "module".

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service has also proposed cutting the value of the A-grade, a move which will anger A-level traditionalists.

Currently an A grade at A-level is worth 10 points - five times more than an E. Students typically need 70 per cent for an A grade and 40 per cent for an E. But this is likely to be reduced to a ratio of three or even two to one, which is closer to the real difference in marks, in a bid to recognise a greater range of achievement.

The proposals seem to have strong backing. Only one in nine of those consulted by UCAS, were in favour of keeping the status quo. Over half preferred a ratio of three to one and a further third thought A grades should be worth only twice as much as a grade E.

The consultation of education organisations - including the Office for Standards in Education, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the Secondary Heads Association - found two-thirds in favour of awarding points for individual modules.

UCAS embarked on a second consultation exercise this week to get the views of universities, schools and colleges. If they back the changes they are likely to be introduced for university applicants in 2002.

Tony Higgins, chief executive of UCAS, said: "We are aiming to get a system which better reflects students' ability and attainment. The points score will highlight the equivalence of a broader range of qualifications."

Heads welcomed the plan. John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association described it as a "Trojan horse" for a credit-based system of qualifications.

However, traditional universities may not be keen to embrace the change. "Institutions which have more applicants than places will still select on the basis of good A-levels," said Professor Alan Smithers of Liverpool University.

A change in the points system was needed to mirror the new A-levels, AS-levels and advanced general national vocational qualifications, due to come into effect in September 2000. Modules across the different qualifications are designed to be of equal worth. Anyone wishing to take part in the consultation should contact UCAS on 01242 222444.

Leader, 10

Next week: What's Next - special pull-out for A-level

students and teachers

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