As a result of changes in the content and standard of A-levels, universities find that their first-year students are increasingly ill-prepared for their university work, a trend that will only increase as the range of subjects studied at A-level is widened.
In order to maintain the standards of their graduates, many universities are now proposing to increase the length of some degree courses from three to four years, teaching in the first year much material that was formerly taught in schools: a wasteful arrangement, since teaching of this kind is not something that universities are particularly good at.
Suppose, however, that those destined for university stayed on for an extra term at school after their A-levels, studying a more limited range of subjects, at a level specifically preparing them for their next stage.
Once this was completed, they would have the rest of the year free to take a job or do voluntary work, either in this country or abroad, an experience that is almost always highly beneficial, but which at present only a minority of students undertakes.
At a stroke, we would have fairer university admissions, the possibility of a wider range of A-levels combined with serious preparation in depth for university itself, a third-year sixth forming an elite within the school and acting as role models for those lower down, and students coming to university with a wider appreciation of what life is all about. Could one ask more?
R. H. S. CARPENTER
Gonville and Caius
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