Universities 'struggling to compare prospective students'

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The Independent Online

University admissions staff are struggling to compare students applying for courses, a study revealed today.

The wide range of qualifications offered by the hopeful applicants is confusing the people assessing their grades, according to the report.

Researchers for ACS International Schools, a group of three schools in the south of England, found almost half (48%) of admissions officers said the variety of qualifications being offered by prospective students was "the most difficult thing to deal with".

University staff are finding it difficult to compile a points system to make sure students that took certain exams are on a level playing field with those that took alternative ones, pollsters found.

Seven in 10 admissions officers agreed it was harder to achieve the top score of 45 in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, for example, than the equivalent three As at A level.

Fergus Rose, from ACS International Schools, said: "The ACS survey highlights the conundrum faced by university admissions officers when comparing qualifications.

"Clearly there needs to be wider understanding of why the IB is so highly rated by universities and greater emphasis given to ensuring a tariff comparison that reflects this.

"It is also clear, however, that this needs to be achieved without devaluing A levels which are also rated highly by admissions officers."

Nearly three quarters (72%) of those questioned said the new A star level is the solution to the problem of "grade inflation", and 53% of them agreed with the statement: "grade inflation makes it harder to identify the best candidates".

Only 5% believe it is now time to abandon A levels altogether and 15% said the quality or level of academic grades being offered by students was the most difficult issue.

The survey of 40 admissions officers from the UK and 20 from the US was carried out by an independent organisation.