Students are not being prepared enough for higher education, say university admissions officers

Private school head says many UK exam systems 'are just not preparing students to make that leap from secondary to higher education'

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The Independent Online

Students heading into higher education (HE) are not being prepared enough for the transition from secondary school, concerned university admissions officers have said.

According to an annual admissions survey* which launched at an HE advisors’ conference in London this week, all respondents unanimously agreed that students must ensure they are “ready to think and learn independently” when asked how students could be better prepared to thrive while successfully complete their degree.

Worryingly, though, 62 per cent said this single attribute is the one most often found missing in students.

The general view among admissions officers is that students should have a secure understanding of the demands of their chosen course to thrive at university, something a massive 98 per cent of respondents cited as being “important or very important.” Thirty-two per cent, though, believed this knowledge to be missing in students.

Jeremy Lewis, head of the private ACS Egham school, questioned why so many students starting university are unprepared for the level of learning. He said: “Our study shows, quite clearly, many of our exam systems are just not preparing students to make that leap from secondary to HE.

“There is a huge emphasis placed on the quality of the student experience at university nowadays, but the reality is that many young people are unable to access the right experience for themselves.

“We need to equip them with the skills to succeed in HE, and develop their style of learning, but some exam systems are too narrowly focussed on subject content alone to achieve this.

“As well as being prepared to think and work independently, students also clearly need to do their homework on course content and realistically ensure they are able to cope with the challenges it will bring if they are to thrive and succeed at university.”

The admissions officers’ views have come shortly after separate research from Which? University found university applicants are regretting the subject choices they made.

Almost 30 per cent of applicants wished they had chosen different A-level subjects, while just over 40 per cent wished they had thought more about what subjects might help them get into university.

Which? campaigns director Alex Neill cautioned: “It’s important students choose their A-levels with both degree courses and future careers in mind.”

*Survey was commissioned by ACS International Schools, International Baccalaureate Organisation (IB), and International Baccalaureate Schools and Colleges Association (IBSCA), and spoke with admissions officers at 81 UK universities between February and May 2016

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