UNIVERSITIES are still in the dark about the new-style A-levels, and cannot yet advise schools how to use them, a leading academic will warn teachers on Monday, writes Sarah Cassidy.
The admission is a serious disappointment to many sixth-form tutors who are anxious to start advising their pupils on what combination of exams to take.
However, Professor Roderick Floud, vice-chair of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, will seek to reassure them that universities are unlikely to base their entrance requirements on the new A-levels until they are sure every sixth-former has access to them.
From September 2000, students will be able to study up to five subjects in the sixth form, taking new AS - advanced subsidiary - exams after their first year, before continuing with three or more to A-level.
The package of reforms also includes more flexible vocational qualifications and increases the emphasis on key skills.
New-look post-16 qualifications and changes to sixth-form funding will make it impossible for all schools and colleges to offer the same breadth of studies, Professor Floud, Provost of London Guildhall University, will tell a conference on the new post-16 qualifications.
"There is a worry that schools and colleges would be under pressure to provide a wider range of qualifications and subjects, and whether they can sustain this.
"Inevitably, there will be un-
evenness in provision, and this may make it difficult to compare applicants to higher education from different schools and colleges and from different areas of the country. So a requirement for any of the new qualifications for admission to HE is unlikely."
He added: "Few conditional offers will be made on AS grades alone. GCSE results and teachers' predictions will remain important criteria until AS performance is proved to be an accurate predictor of future academic success."
Meanwhile, a CVCP survey of UK universities revealed that most welcome the new qualifications which they believe will broaden sixth-form studies and enable students to make a more informed choice of higher education course.
The universities also approve of the new advanced extension awards to stretch the most able students and the increased emphasis on key skills to consolidate literacy and numeracy.
However, they are concerned that greater breadth will be at the expense of depth in many subjects, particularly in sciences and languages where knowledge is cumulative.
Candidates whose schools do not offer the full range of the new qualifications will not be disadvantaged, Professor Floud will tell the conference.
Universities should continue to consider candidates' other qualities and achievements, he will tell teachers.
However, the professor warns that most decisions are made by individual admissions tutors and the new qualifications will not make uniformity of admission policy any more likely.
"The new post-16 qualifications and their impact on higher education" conference will be held on November 1 at the Cumberland Hotel, London N1. Tel. 020 7698 3020 for details.