Top-grade A-level students are arriving at university without having mastered the basics of speaking and writing, according to the man leading the Government's review of secondary qualifications.
"People with grade As at A-level are struggling to meet the demands of higher education, particularly in the area of language," Mike Tomlinson told a conference on 14 to 19 reform.
"The ability to be given a title for research, then go away and analyse, synthesise and make a presentation, in written or oral form, is something that challenges many of our best A-level students."
Mr Tomlinson said universities had highlighted the issue to his working group on qualifications reform. It is proposing the introduction of a diploma to replace GCSEs and A-levels by 2014.
The diploma plans include proposals to introduce an extended research project to address the issue. All students entering university are also likely to have to demonstrate GCSE grade C English, maths and computing skills.
Mr Tomlinson said that all students are likely to be required to study the maths of mortgages and credit cards, as financial literacy becomes a part of compulsory mathematics included within the new qualification.
Publication of the working group's final recommendations has been put back from September to October, Mr Tomlinson told the conference at the University of East London.
It is likely to call for a simplification of the funding mechanism affecting schools and colleges educating 14 to 19-year-olds, he said.
There will also be a section on league tables and accountability, although Mr Tomlinson said that the group would not be calling for league tables for individual schools and colleges to be scrapped.