University responds to “dumbing down” accusations

Beach and Old Col.ABERYSTWYTH University have defended their entry requirements after being accused of “dumbing down” following the publication of statistics which claim the University offered places to applicants with just 80 UCAS points.

The investigation by the Western Mail claimed that Welsh universities were accepting students who had achieved well under the minimum entry requirements needed to enter onto a university course.

A request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Aberystwyth University had accepted applications to study Biology where the applicants had achieved just 80 UCAS tariff points- the equivalent of two grade E passes at A level. According to the UCAS website, Biology at Aberystwyth usually requires a minimum of 200 points, including at least a grade C in a related A-level subject.

The article also stated that 35 different courses at Aberystwyth have accepted students with the equivalent of two A-level passes for courses that started in September 2012, with further reductions in entry requirements made in courses such as Genetics, Law, History and Fine Art.

However, the University responded by stating that only three people (under the age of 21) were accepted onto courses with 80 or fewer UCAS points, and that all are studying on a four-year scheme which includes a foundation year specifically designed for the purpose of widening access.

The average UCAS points achieved by students accepted to study at Aberystwyth in September 2012 was 281 – the equivalent of B, B and C grades at A level.

A senior Welsh Conservative Assembly Member described it as “unfair” that that a student could “leave school with almost no A-levels at all and still gain a place at a Welsh university”.

Angela Burns, Shadow Education Minister for Wales, said the offers sent out a message that “elements of the Welsh higher education sector have bargain-basement entry requirements, are dumbing down and don’t appreciate the value of academic rigour.”

A spokesperson from the University said that the University is “committed to Welsh Government’s Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning agendas and offers a number of routes into Higher Education for people from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as mature students who wish to study at university later in life.”

They also said that applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, and some students who have relevant experience and professional background (aimed more towards mature students), or who carry other qualifications such as a Higher Education Access course or the Aberystwyth University Summer University may also be accepted in lieu of the traditional UCAS tariff.

Summer University scheme

The Summer University is a scheme set up in 2009 by Aberystwyth’s Centre for Widening Participation which involves a six-week residential course designed to prepare young people from disadvantaged backgrounds (especially those living in Community First areas) for University, including lectures, seminars and a taste of living at the University. All students who successfully complete the Summer University will be guaranteed a progression route to an appropriate scheme at the University, on the condition that 2 A-levels (or equivalent) are passed.

The spokesperson confirmed that Aberystwyth is gradually phasing the UCAS system out in favour of a scheme which provides an accurate picture of the diversity of its students, focusing on offering a number of routes into Higher Education for everyone, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and mature students.