Letter: No apology for a summer of research

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am puzzled by the enthusiasm for post-A-level entry to university .

There would be little advantage to students in terms of time saved during preparation for A-levels. They would not indeed have to apply to universities, but they would still need to do the research about institutions and courses, go to open days and talk to lecturers in order to make an informed choice about where to apply when they receive their results.

Moreover, a considerable proportion of places would be filled before the A-level results came out. More than 30 per cent of undergraduates are now mature students, most of whom do not take A-levels in the year of their application. To this group could be added applicants to Oxbridge, which would still continue to interview and make offers pre- A-level. It is clear that very soon pressure would build up, at least from the better candidates, to be made pre-A-level, informal offers by the institution of their choice.

This is not to say that the present system works well, but there is a simple alternative: encourage students to take a year out and apply post- A-level. Applicants would then have their A-level results, and their preparation for examinations need not be interrupted by research about degree courses. In my experience, students who have had a year out come to university with a more mature and focused attitude to study. In addition, they could use a year out to save some money so that they graduated encumbered with fewer debts.

Dr STEPHEN TAYLOR

Reading, Berkshire

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