Russell Group universities shun 'soft subjects'

A group of top universities published guidance today revealing a preference for students who take traditional A-levels.

The Russell Group of 20 leading universities lists the so-called "facilitating" subjects for gaining a place as maths, English, geography, history, biology, chemistry, physics and classical or modern foreign languages.

The guide, Informed Choices, states that even where these choices are not specified as required subjects, universities may still have a preference for them.

It warns: "If you decide not to choose some of the facilitating subjects at advanced level, many degrees at competitive universities will not be open to you."

And it asks students to question why they are not taking traditional subjects: "Are you trying to avoid a challenge?"

The guide, the group's first for post-16 subject choices, says students who decide to take more than one "soft" subject should be cautious.

It lists examples as media studies, art and design, photography and business studies, and suggests the "soft" subjects are those with a vocational or practical bias.

Russell Group director general Dr Wendy Piatt said: "All students - particularly those from less advantaged backgrounds-must have access to appropriate information and guidance about the choices that will maximise or reduce their opportunities and life chances from an early age.

"Achievement at school is the key to increasing your chances of winning a place at a leading university. But choosing the best subjects at GCSE and A-level is also crucial.

"It is really important that students do not disadvantage themselves by choosing a combination of subjects at A-level which will not equip them with the appropriate skills and knowledge for their university course or which may not demonstrate effectively their aptitude for a particular subject.

"Informed Choices emphasises the importance of 'facilitating' subjects, such as maths and English, which are particularly effective in equipping students with the skills they need for a large number of competitive courses and in increasing a student's chances of getting on to those courses."

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of educational charity the Sutton Trust, said: "Subject choice during the sixth form years is one of the key decisions teenagers make in their lives-determining their future university and life prospects.

"We welcome this new guide and hope that it will help bright non-privileged students in particular, who all too often do not receive the support and guidance they need at this key juncture in their lives."

Universities minister David Willetts said: "It is crucial that all potential students have access to timely and comparable information about choosing the best course for them.

"It is also an important development in helping people make the right choices early on so they can pursue their chosen career.

"Improving information for prospective students is a priority for the Government, and will form a key part of our plans for higher education.

"We are committed to making information clearer for students from all backgrounds, to improve access to the most selective universities."

Isabel Nisbet, chief executive of exams regulator Ofqual, said: "In December I challenged the higher education sector to give applicants better information about which qualifications they need to win a place at university.

"Students are not clairvoyants. They need clear information on which qualifications they need for their chosen university courses so they can make informed decisions.

"Today's report from the Russell Group is an excellent step in the right direction." #

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "I warned the last government for years that state school children were being misled about qualifications. A generation have been betrayed by Labour ministers who denied poorer children the chance to go to top universities.

"This Government is making opportunities more equal by supporting schools to teach rigorous subjects universities value.

"It's only by putting more of an emphasis on subjects like maths, science and modern foreign languages that our children will be able to flourish in the 21st century.

"Labour's opposition to our modernisation of education reveals how out of touch they still are."

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Network Manager - Oldham area - Up to £30,000

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

Teacher of special needs required for Burton on Trent

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Exciting Opportunity, Rand...

Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Behaviour Support Worker Th...

Youth Worker / Teaching Assistant - Nottingham

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are looki...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home