Letter: Why A-levels aren't everything

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The Independent Online
FRAN ABRAMS questions the motives of universities that recruit students who have done badly at A-level ('Colleges tout for any custom', 11 September). The School of Mathematics, Statistics and Scientific Computing at the University of Greenwich has always been concerned about the large number of students who do not do themselves justice at A-level.

For more than 10 years we have used a diagnostic test to admit able students to our HND course who have studied maths to A-level standard without achieving a qualification. Students who were admitted to our HND course with disappointing A-level grades have been employed by companies such as Esso and Rolls-Royce; others are studying for doctorates. Two of our HND graduates were appointed to university lectureships last year, one in preference to Oxford D Phils.

There is often, at least in mathematics, remarkably little correlation between ability and performance at A-level: many (especially women) underperform at A-level for a variety of reasons. Your concern would be better directed towards this issue than criticising universities that offer an opportunity to such students to achieve their potential.

It will be sad if the current obsession with ranking universities by spurious indicators such as A-level entry points results in a reduction in these opportunities.

A J S Mann

The University of Greenwich

London SE18

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