The new technical qualifications that are supposed to have the same status as A levels are already being shunned by some higher education institutions, Tes can reveal.
Although the Department for Education insists that T levels will be “on a par” with their academic equivalents, some of Britain’s best universities have already decided not to accept them.
Not on the same level
A spokesperson for Imperial College London, ranked as the eighth best university in the world by Times Higher Education, said: “We need to ensure that students are academically able to cope with the rigours of an Imperial degree and we do not believe that T levels provide a suitable preparation for students.”
And a spokesperson for University College London, ranked 16th in the world, commented: “At present, UCL does not accept the new T-level qualification for entry to its undergraduate programmes.”
T levels were announced by the government as a “world class” alternative to traditional academic qualifications. But the decision by some universities means students with T levels will still need A levels if they are to be considered for a place on a degree course at these institutions.
However, opinion is divided among the top universities, with several other Russell Group institutions open to the idea of accepting the new technical qualifications.
The universities of Glasgow, Leeds and Sheffield have indicated that they would accept T levels in principle, on a case-by-case basis.
Robin Gordon, head of admissions at the University of Glasgow, said: “In principle, the University of Glasgow is open to looking at all qualifications as a basis of entry to the university and T levels will be no exception.”
He added that some BTEC qualifications are accepted “depending on their academic versus vocational content”, while others require A levels alongside them. Gordon commented: “We anticipate a similar stance to be taken on T levels as BTECs.”
More than half of the Russell Group universities are undecided over the merits of the new qualifications, blaming a lack of detail on T levels.
The universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, LSE, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Queen's University Belfast, Southampton, Warwick and York have yet to decide what their position will be.
A spokesperson for the University of Oxford – which is ranked as the best university in the world by THE – said: “We are watching with interest the development and take-up of the T levels, and will base our judgement on them once we have more evidence on how the qualifications are used in schools.”
Although T levels are primarily a means of entry into skilled employment, they should also provide a route into higher education, according to the DfE.
The new technical qualifications “should have Ucas points to support entry into higher education”, according to Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges. However, Helen Thorne, director of external relations at university admissions body Ucas, said: “It’s too early to say how T levels will be considered when it comes to university admissions.”
The creation of T levels, announced last year, is part of a package of reforms on technical education recommended by the independent panel on technical education, chaired by Lord Sainsbury, in 2016.
The new technical qualifications “will be just as high-quality and rigorous as A levels”, and will also “support entry into higher education”, according to a DfE spokesperson.
This is an edited version of an article in the 9 February edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Tes magazine is available at all good newsagents