Russell Group: fewer post-16 options mean a-levels must come from informed choices

UP TO 15% FEWER students are taking AS-levels after changes mean they no longer count toward A-level grades. Students therefore may have less opportunity to try a subject before taking it to A-level and their choices now bear more weight.

The fifth edition of the Russell Group’s Informed Choices guide, published today, will help young people navigate these changes. Good, early and readily available advice on subject choice helps to foster ambition in students hoping to apply to Russell Group universities and can be found in the guide.

The up-to-date information and advice will give young people the best chance of applying to a Russell Group university. The 2016 guide is now available on our website. It is being shared with admission tutors throughout the country and schools.

Director General of the Russell Group Dr Wendy Piatt said:

“We are wholeheartedly committed to ensuring our doors are wide open to talented and able students from all backgrounds but our universities can’t offer places to those who do not apply or do not have the right grades in the right subjects. Too often students disadvantage themselves by choosing a combination of subjects at A-level that will not equip them with the appropriate skills and knowledge for their preferred university course.

Subject choice at GCSE and A-level or equivalent affects everyone’s options for degree courses, so we make sure that the most useful and relevant information is available to students everywhere, through Informed Choices.

The last thing we want is for pupils to miss out on their dream course because they didn’t have all the information they needed.

The first step in unlocking the potential of all students is ensuring that they have the right advice and guidance.”

The new edition of Informed Choices includes details of recent Government changes to curricula, GCSEs, vocational qualifications and A-levels. It gives young people the information they need to make the best decisions at various points in their school career if they hope to attend a Russell Group university.

The guide includes advice on the best subject combinations for a wide range of university courses as well as advice on the best choices if students do not know what they want to study after school and need to keep their options open.

Produced in collaboration with the heads of admissions at each of our 24 universities Informed Choices is for all students considering A-level and equivalent options.

Informed Choices forms part of a range of material available to students making these crucial decisions. Russell Group universities recently launched Advancing Access – an online resource with advice and guidance for teachers and advisors who are helping their students go on to leading universities.

Informed Choices – A Russell Group guide to making decisions about post-16 education

Notes to editors

Recent Government reforms mean the AS grade no longer counts towards the overall A-level grade. This has led to a drop in the number of schools offering (and students taking) AS levels. According to the Joint Council for Qualification (JCQ) AS level entries for 2016 were down across all subjects by 13.7%. Entries for AS level English are down by 23.2%, for Biology by 16.7%, for Chemistry by 16.2%, and for Physics by 15.2%. Russell Group universities value the AS level as a robust predictor of attainment at A-level , and AS-level results after one year of study can also be effective in giving talented students from poorer backgrounds the confidence to apply to a highly selective university. Our universities have made clear, however, that those students not taking AS levels will not be unfairly disadvantaged

The guide should be used in conjunction with—but not as a substitute for— the more detailed information about entry requirements that is published by individual universities on their websites and in their prospectuses.

All students – particularly those from less advantaged backgrounds – must have access to appropriate information and guidance about the choices that will maximise or reduce their opportunities and life chances from an early age.

Informed Choices is used widely in schools as a resource in their options evenings and it is also used by Russell Group university outreach teams during their visits to schools. This is one of several examples of collaboration across institutions.

The 20 Russell Group universities in England alone will be investing £254 million in 2017/18 in scholarships, fee waivers, bursaries and outreach activities aimed at the most disadvantaged – with additional investments being made across Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Department for Education destination data published in January showed that the number of students eligible for free school meals going to Russell Group universities has increased every year since 2010. In 2013, almost 13% of the students (1820) eligible for free school meals who went into higher education went to a Russell Group university, up from 7.5% (910) in 2010.

According to HESA since 2009/10:

The number of young, full-time undergraduate students from low socioeconomic backgrounds entering a Russell Group university has increased by 14%, from 12,655 to 14,415 in 2014/15

The number of young, full-time undergraduate students who attended state schools going to Russell Group universities each year has increased by 8.2%, from 56,440 to 61,080 in 2014/15

According to the UCAS End of Cycle 2015 report (which details university applicant and acceptance rates for entry in September 2015):

The number of Black students accepted by Russell Group universities has increased by 62%, from 1,690 in 2010 to 2,740 in 2015.

The number of Asian students accepted by Russell Group universities has increased by 28%, from 7,285 in 2010 to 9,350 in 2015.

The number of Mixed ethnicity students accepted by Russell Group universities has increased by 43%, from 2,760 in 2010 to 3,940 in 2015.

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