DfE ministers at loggerheads over minimum A levels for uni

Skidmore disagrees with minimum entry requirement for university – but Agnew says letting pupils in with 3 Es is 'lunacy'

Will Hazell

Will Hazell

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Two Department for Education ministers appear to be at loggerheads over whether pupils should get a minimum set of A-level grades to be able to go to university.

Chris Skidmore, the universities minister, told MPs this morning that he was staunchly against the idea.

But his DfE colleague Lord Agnew previously said it was "lunacy" to let pupils go to university with three Es

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The difference of opinions emerged ahead of the publication of a government review into higher education, chaired by former investment banker Philip Augar, which is expected shortly.

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It has been reported that the review could recommend that pupils who fail to achieve three Ds at A level should not qualify for a student loan to go to university.

Appearing before the Commons Education Select Committee today, Mr Skidmore said: “I’m on record as disagreeing with any minimum entry requirements, and I will continue to say so.

"I was up at Huddersfield University last Friday, and I hope the vice-chancellor [Bob Cryan] won’t mind me mentioning this, but he’s actually someone who is a fellow of the Royal Society of Engineering, he’s a renowned professor in his field, but he didn’t get 3 Ds [to get into] university."

Mr Skidmore said universities needed to embrace a "lifelong approach to learning", and that some people "will develop" over time.

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However, his comments jar with those made by his ministerial colleague Lord Agnew, earlier this month. 

Addressing independent-school headteachers at an education conference at Brighton College, he said: “Why are we letting kids go to university with three Es at A level? Why? It’s a lunacy.

“There are people who are going to have to pick up the tab for that kind of madness.”

The idea of minimum grades has been met by widespread opposition in the higher education sector. 

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, told Tes that the idea would be a “real shame” and “cut off” opportunity”.

And Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, said such a move would send a message to thousands of pupils that the "transformative experience" of university "is not available to them".



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