De­grees for E-grade pupils? It’s mad, says min­is­ter

Daily Mail - - Life - By Jaya Narain and Eleanor Harding

TOO many stu­dents with very low grades are be­ing al­lowed to go to uni­ver­sity, a schools min­is­ter has warned. Lord Agnew said it was ‘mad­ness’ that stu­dents with only three E grades at A-level are be­ing ac­cepted on to de­gree cour­ses.

He hit out at sup­port­ers of the prac­tice, say­ing they only hold that view be­cause they do not have to ‘pick up the tab’.

His com­ments will raise eye­brows as it is the first time a govern­ment min­is­ter has been so vo­cal on the is­sue. In De­cem­ber, it was re­vealed that the Govern­ment is think­ing of tack­ling low en­try re­quire­ments by deny­ing stu­dent loans to young­sters with lower than three D grades.

Speak­ing at a con­fer­ence at Brighton Col­lege yes­ter­day, Lord Agnew said that ev­ery week he is con­fronted in the House of Lords by peo­ple want­ing to lower stan­dards.

He said: ‘Why are we let­ting kids go to uni­ver­si­ties with three Es at A-level? I mean, why? It’s a lu­nacy.’ He added: ‘Un­for­tu­nately there is a body of peo­ple who be­lieve that be­cause they never have to pick up the tab for the re­sults of that kind of mad­ness.’

Data from the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Sta­tis­tics Agency (HESA) for 2017 en­trants shows 2,905 teenagers aged 19 or younger were ad­mit­ted to uni­ver­si­ties with less than three E grades.

While this only rep­re­sented 1 per cent of the to­tal for that year, some uni­ver­si­ties ad­mit­ted much larger pro­por­tions. The Uni­ver­sity of Bed­ford­shire, a for­mer polytechni­c which is ranked 118th in the coun­try by the Com­plete Uni­ver­sity Guide, had the high­est pro­por­tion – 15 per cent.

A spokesman for the uni­ver­sity said: ‘We are a proudly widen­ing ac­cess to uni­ver­sity. Our own in­ter­nal anal­y­sis of stu­dents who en­ter with three Ds has found, with the right sup­port and guid­ance, they achieve very sim­i­lar suc­cess as their peers with bet­ter A-Level grades. We be­lieve to re­strict ac­cess to uni­ver­sity... would be so­cially re­gres­sive and harm so­cial mo­bil­ity.’

How­ever, crit­ics have said stu­dents with very low grades are un­likely to be suited to aca­demic study and may strug­gle with cour­ses.

In ad­di­tion, if they do not per­form well in the job mar­ket when they leave, they are never able to earn enough to pay back their stu­dent loans.

Loans are writ­ten off af­ter 30 years, mean­ing the tax­payer is sub­si­dis­ing the de­grees of peo­ple who achieve less fi­nan­cially when they leave.

‘It would be so­cially re­gres­sive’

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