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Vice-chancellors voice concern that lowering entry standards may harm students

Universities should not lower their entry standards as a consequence of the disruption of lockdowns upon A-levels as this will lead to greater problems of students struggling with their courses, a vice-chancellor has warned.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, the vice-chancellor of Leicester University, issued this warning over concerns that offering university places to pupils with lower A-level grades than usual would not solve the problems posed by the lockdowns and Covid-19’s impact on education.

Professor Canagarajah highlighted that such actions could lead to negative consequences for students starting their degree without the “basic knowledge” required and cause future problems for students as their degree progresses.

He said “when it comes to admissions, I would urge all universities to focus on fairness to ensure students can still reach their full potential and achieve the grades they deserve,” adding “we are not driving down students’ ambition”.

His concerns come as the universities of Birmingham and Surrey have announced plans to lower entry requirements by a grade for most of their courses for the next academic year in response to the disruption to education.

When it comes to admissions, I would urge all universities to focus on fairness to ensure students can still reach their full potential and achieve the grades they deserve

– Professor Canagarajah

Leicester University have taken a different approach to mitigate the effects on A-level results by saying it will review schools’ submissions about the challenges their pupils faced in their A-levels due to the major disruption alongside their standard applications.

Leicester University are offering support to A-level students over the summer to ensure students’ readiness to begin their degrees come September.

Professor Canagarajah said: “The key things we want to ensure is that our admissions process is fair and put the students first. And the second priority is that when they come to university they should be able to benefit from the university education.”

His concern is that lowering entry requirements only shifts the issue and may mean some students “may still struggle without the basic knowledge.”

Professor Shirley Congdon, vice-chancellor of the University of Bradford, echoed these concerns that lowering entry grades may not necessarily benefit those students most effected by the disruption to school.

She said: “Our entry requirements reflect what we consider is needed for students to be able to succeed on our programmes. We would not, therefore, lower our entry standards in response to the pandemic.”

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