Vocational route to university is growing

26th August 2005 at 01:00
Nearly 40 per cent of students who enter university have taken vocational qualifications rather than A-levels.

Figures from the University Colleges and Admissions Service reveal that nearly 150,000 university entrants last year had studied BTEC, access to higher education or other vocational qualifications.

This compares with a total of 230,000 students who earned higher education places after taking A-levels.

Colleges have complained that the achievements of students on vocational courses are overlooked in favour of A-levels, despite their success.

Maggie Scott, acting director of learning and quality at the Association of Colleges, said prejudice was a factor in the low profile of vocational results.

"The achievements of all these young people are almost passing us by on the blind side," she said.

Ms Scott suggested there should be a national results day to celebrate vocational students' achievements - a call that was supported by Edexcel, the exam board that oversees BTEC qualifications.

But an Edexcel spokeswoman said that at present, overall results were not ready until December because of delays in some colleges providing all the assessment information.

A new official league table system later this year will allow vocational qualifications and A-levels to be compared, and could pave the way for both sets of results to be reported in the same way.

All level 3 qualifications will be included in a new points system, on the basis of equivalence to A-level calculated by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

NVQs at level 3, for example, could be worth between 384 and 672 points, depending on the amount of study required. An A grade at A-level is worth 270.

The system, piloted last year for GCSEs, prompted protests from independent schools, which saw their pre-eminence in the league tables challenged.

Steven King, spokesman for the Independent Schools Council, said their objections were the same as for changing A-level league tables.

"We recognise the need for and value of vocational qualifications, but there is no equivalence between a qualification in cake-decorating and one in physics."

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