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Oxford University college to honour offers ‘irrespective of A-level results’

Oxford and Cambridge urged to follow suit and give unconditional places to pupils ‘unfairly downgraded by an algorithm’

Zoe Tidman
Saturday 15 August 2020 16:59 BST
A-level results: Students protest outside Downing Street amid growing pressure for Gavin Williamson to resign

An Oxford University college has said it will honour its offers to all UK students this year "irrespective of their A-level results" after thousands of pupils across the country were downgraded by a computer system.

Worcester College's decision has fuelled calls for Oxford and Cambridge universities to make unconditional offers to pupils to prevent them missing out on places after exams were cancelled.

"Many members of our college community and beyond have expressed their concern for the potential impact of yesterday’s A-Level results on this year’s incoming students," the college said in a statement.

"At Worcester we made offers in 2020 to our most diverse cohort ever, and in response to the uncertainties surrounding this year’s assessment, we have confirmed the places of all our UK offer-holders, irrespective of their A-level results."

Nearly 3,000 Oxford graduates have called on the university as a whole to follow suit and admit students downgraded during the A-level results controversy.

They signed an open letter to the admissions staff and tutors calling on the university to show "kindness and generosity" to students whose grades had been "unexpectedly and unfairly downgraded by an algorithm".

Former students from Jesus College also signed an open letter calling for all candidates from state schools with offers to be allowed to take up their places.

More than 39 per cent of teachers' estimates for A-level pupils in England were adjusted down by one grade or more on Thursday by exam boards after this summer's exams were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A disproportionate amount of students whose grades were lowered were from disadvantaged backgrounds.

An open letter from Cambridge University alumni called for the university to "honour all offers made to students from the state sector".

England's exam regulator justified the downgrading those estimates by saying some teachers had submitted “implausibly high” predictions.

Results day descended into chaos as 39.1 pr cent of teachers' estimates for pupils in England were adjusted down by one grade or more, according to data from the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).

The downgrades amounted to around 280,000 entries.

The government is coming under increasing pressure to review its moderation and appeals system, with pupils complaining they have been let down, and experts warning poorer students will be affected most due to reassessments which consider schools' past performances.

Protesters gathered outside Downing Street on Friday chanting for Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, to be sacked.

In a statement, Mr Williamson said: “I know there are some really difficult cases, and we have already put support in place to help those students, including an enhanced appeal process. In addition, our triple lock process means students will be able to accept their calculated grade, appeal on the basis of a valid mock result or sit an exam in the autumn.”

When asked about the open letter, a Cambridge university spokesperson said: “This year, which has been an extraordinary one, we have been as flexible as we can in our admissions process, within the government restrictions on student numbers.

“All our new undergraduate students are accommodated in one of the Colleges so we have a limited number of places we can offer, and competition is always high, so we have to work within these physical constraints.”

An Oxford University spokesperson said: "We will be doing everything we can to help those students who have received results which do not meet their offers, within the boundaries set by DfE and the Office for Students Our admissions decisions do not rely on A level-results alone but a wealth of information based on teachers’ references, written work, personal background, admissions tests and interviews.

"This allows us to build up a detailed and nuanced picture of a candidate’s academic potential."

They added: "We can therefore reconsider applicants for places where there are clear mitigating circumstances, or evidence that students have been disadvantaged by the mechanisms used to calculate A-level grades this year."

Jesus College have also been contacted for comment by The Independent.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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