Many new students flounder says Ofqual report

 

A culture of re-sits, bitesize exams and schools drilling pupils to pass tests is leaving many new students floundering at university, a report warns today.

Academics are losing faith in the abilities of first-year undergraduates, many of who have a "shallower" knowledge than in the past, according to research by the exams watchdog, Ofqual.

It indicates that some academics and teachers would like to see a return to more traditional A-levels, with pupils sitting fewer "module" papers throughout the course.

The report comes on the day that Education Secretary Michael Gove confirmed that he intends to give universities, particularly the most elite institutions, "a far greater role" in designing A-levels in the future.

The announcement was met with some concerns from headteachers and universities, with one union leader dismissing it as a "quick fix gimmick".

Ofqual's report is based on interviews with university academics and employers and discussion groups with A-level teachers.

It found that many academics do not think that new students have the skills needed for degree study, such as researching, essay writing and references, with some graduates lacking the levels of English and maths required.

Academics at selective universities told researchers that they have "less faith in the abilities of first-year undergraduates than they used to."

Despite an increase in A-level grade, and higher numbers gaining first-class degrees, universities are not reporting "a comparative increase in the abilities of first-year undergraduates," it says.

"If anything, students' theoretical subject knowledge was said to have grown broader but shallower."

The academics interviewed also raised concerns about pupils "learning to the test" - being drilled to pass exams.

As a result of this, new students fail to take control of their own degree studies because they are used to being told how to pass an exam.

Teachers told researchers that a "re-sit culture" had been damaging to students, because they approached exams believing that they will always get a second chance at it.

As a result, many academics said first-year university students struggled because they were not able to retake an exam to boost their grade.

The report said that their discussions with teachers suggested that teachers would welcome a return to more "linear" A-levels, in which pupils sit their exams at the end of their two-year course, rather than modular courses in which pupils sit exams in "bitesize" chunks or units throughout.

Some university academics also said that traditional A-levels gave pupils more time to read around their subject "without worrying about being assessed on everything that they learn."

Ofqual concludes: "A move away from modular assessment - although not necessarily to a full two-year linear model - would foster an environment where students are more able to develop synoptic learning and allow more space for teachers to focus on skills and subject narrative."

The report also found that those interviews did not usually advocate a total ban on re-sits, but did think that there should be a fixed number of times that a student could re-take a paper."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England