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General studies can count

Nicholas Pyke has unfortunately renewed the issue of the relative acceptability of A-level general studies to higher education admissions officers (TES, April 18).

It is too facile to summarise the position as "many university admissions tutors . . . do not count it towards university entrance" and leave the matter there. In the experience of this examining board, which currently has 51, 000 A-level general studies entries from 1,100 schools and colleges, many conditional offers of places do not specifically include or exclude general studies. In a smaller proportion of cases it is made clear that general studies is acceptable - sometimes explicitly welcomed - among an applicant's subjects, or it is specifically excluded.

Many departments do take account of general studies results in finalising their offers at the post-results stage. Schools and colleges would be unlikely to finance entries on this scale, irrespective of the other merits of general studies, for an examination which "failed to impress many university admissions tutors".

On the very next page of the same issue, Josephine Gardiner reports at length on a college which opts to devote some of its resources to A-level general studies. She found that the A-level candidates there "confound the apathetic stereotype of young voters. They have strong well-informed views on every issue from the European currency to school discipline. They show a keen interest in politics and current affairs, though no party has really secured their loyalty. All of them were irritated by the 'massive generalisations' politicians and journalists make about young people".

DAVID ROBERTS Subject officer for general studies Northern Examinations and Assessment Board Manchester

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