The small but significant minority

17th February 1995 at 00:00
Two surveys have gone a long way to dispelling doubts about GNVQs as a pathway to higher education.

The distinction between A-levels and GNVQs has little bearing on admissions at the University of Central England in Birmingham.

Seminars and workshops organised by recruitment officers last year kept admissions tutors informed about new qualifications, but fewer than 100 of the 35,000 applications that the university received were from students offering GNVQs.

Jasvinder Kaur, aged 18, is one of five students on the BA honours degree course in business studies who entered with a GNVQ level 3, the equivalent of two A-levels.

She said: "I had hoped to do BTEC when I enrolled at Bilston College in Wolverhampton, but we were told only GNVQs were on offer so I signed up for that in business studies.

"We were treated like guinea-pigs, and even called that by some of the staff. The course was chaotic at first and I thought about leaving but gradually things came together and I enjoyed it. We did 18 units in a variety of subjects including accounting, marketing and finance."

Jasvinder applied to four universities - UCE, Wolverhampton, De Montfort and Luton - and was offered places at each one.

"When I went to interviews it was clear the admissions lecturers knew very little about GNVQs, and they asked some very basic questions about what I had learnt. Once they knew what the courses had entailed they seemed happy I would be prepared for a degree course and I certainly didn't have any doubts that I would be able to cope.

"I don't feel I have missed out at all by not doing A-levels. They never appealed to me anyway because so many people work hard and still end up failing them, and having studied for units in various disciplines I feel very well prepared. There doesn't seem to be any academic distinction on our degree course between those who did A-levels and those who came in with GNVQs, and I doubt if the lecturers themselves are even aware of who did what.

"The only thing I've noticed is that those who did GNVQs tend to get chosen more often as group leaders when we are split up for workshops, so we may have developed better communication skills."

Josie Hurd, UCE's education liaison officer, with responsibility for recruitment, said the university had been anxious to ensure that admissions tutors in individual departments were aware that some students might be applying with GNVQs.

She said: "At present we do not keep a central bank of information about students' routes into the university, but this is something we might consider doing in future. Certainly it may be some years before we see any patterns emerging of the standards of students and if they differ at all. We have had no feedback either way from staff, though in future I feel admissions tutors may well look at recruiting a good mix of entrants to enhance their courses. "

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