Science continues A-level decline

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The Independent Online
NEXT WEEK'S record number of A-level results will show a continued decline in science and growth in humanities. For the thousands of candidates waiting for their results on Thursday that means competition for arts places at universities is likely to be stiffer than in science and engineering.

The Institute of Physics views the situation with 'considerable concern' and said university physics departments had almost as many places as applicants. The continued growth in A-level entries overall, accompanied by an explosion of the numbers going into higher education, is taking place despite the falling number of 18-year-olds and the high failure rate - between a quarter and a third of candidates receive no award. However This summer some examiners are said to be commenting favourably on the quality of candidates' work.

Drops in science entries were reported by the Joint Matriculation Board, the University of London School Examinations Board and the Associated Examining Board. Last year's record of 723,545 A-level entries is expected to be broken when the boards announce their figures next week.

The Institute of Physics is attempting to make the subject more attractive to students and is urging a reduction in the content of the A-level syllabus to make time for more experiments and new science. But pupils are still aware that it is easier to get an A in French than an A in physics, according to Catherine Wilson, the institute's education manager. She said: 'Why take on a difficult subject if you can get a passport to something further by doing an easier option?'

Admission arrangements are expected to be disrupted by a one- day strike on Thursday by members of the white collar union Nalgo in further education colleges and the former polytechnics. They have rejected a 4.3 per cent pay offer.