Universities would be given powers to decide what should be studied by A-level pupils under plans that would see the Government's role in setting the exams disappear.
Proposals put forward by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, would give universities oversight of the qualifications in the hope that they would better prepare students for an undergraduate degree.
Examination boards would still set the syllabuses to be followed at A-level, but would do so in consultation with members of the elite Russell Group of universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.
Mr Gove laid out his ideas in a letter to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), in which he said the Government would take a back seat and universities would "drive the system".
"I do not envisage the Department for Education having a role in the development of A-level qualifications," Mr Gove said. "It is more important that universities are satisfied that A-levels enable young people to start their undergraduate degrees having gained the right knowledge and skills, than that ministers are able to influence content or methods of assessment."
Mr Gove said the changes were prompted by fears that A-levels are failing properly to prepare students for university. New A-level courses would be taught from September 2014, with the first exams taken in 2016, according to reports last night.