LETTER: A degree of flexibility

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The Independent Online
From Mr A. J. S. Mann

Sir: Sir Rhodes Boyson ("A-level failures' places defended", 29 August) is quoted as saying that "if students cannot get the exams, they are not fit for university".

While we support his desire to ensure that standards are maintained, our experience in the Mathematics School at the University of Greenwich refutes his statement. For many years we have taken students with poor A-level results on our Higher National Diploma course, using our own diagnostic test and interview to make our selection. Our drop-out rate for these students is no higher than for those with good A-levels, while students who do well may transfer to a degree course, catching up with their contemporaries who did better at A-level.

This year one of these students has been taken on as a trainee accountant by Arthur Andersen, and another has declined an excellent job at the Met Office in order to do a PhD. Many HND students have proceeded to study at PhD or MSc level, and at least two are now employed as university lecturers: others have found jobs with prestigious companies like Shell and NatWest Bank. Unfortunately many very capable people do badly at A-level for a variety of reasons: universities deserve credit for providing an opportunity to realise potential.

Yours faithfully,

A. J. S. Mann

Faculty of Technology

Postgraduate Scheme Director

University of Greenwich

London, SE18

29 August