Thursday, 30 June 2011

Core and Margin: more on AAB

You may have seen today's Higher, which estimated the number of AAB students in certain institutions by looking at people with 450+ UCAS tariff points. Obviously 450 points is significantly more than you would get from 3 A-levels at AAB, but very highly qualified young people will tend to have other tariff-bearing qualifications such as Grade 8 in one or more instruments, or a British Horse Society certificate.

I have spoken to colleagues at BIS who confirm that the exact methodology will be for HEFCE to consult on, but their policy intention in writing 'the equivalent of AAB or above at A-Level' in para 4.19 of the White Paper was not to refer to the UCAS tariff. Presumably they wanted to leave some flexibility to include qualifications which elite institutions do recognise (such as International Baccalaureate).

Then, literally whilst I was writing this post, HEFCE published their consultation and set out the rules in Annex C. UCAS tariff has nothing to do with it. They have also promised institutional-level modelling of the impact, which will be great to see.

The implication of using a very restricted set of AAB equivalences, as HEFCE propose to do, is that there will be even less impact outside the elite from this measure. I'll wait until HEFCE publish their model before I write more, but I will note that HEFCE have expressed concern about subject provision and Equality & Diversity impacts from this policy. I think they are right to fear both.


  1. As some one who was admissions tutor in a few universities, to me, extending the set from the current AAB grouping makes sense only if the admissions criteria for some courses are informally set by the admissions panel to be AAA and the student who wants to achieve AAA thinks that he/she is safe with 4 subjects at A2 and has taken them. One medical admissions panel to my horror once gave a student the admission by looking at the spread beyond the 3 critical group by homing on a subject which had an A, that was Persian!! I know the interviews will sort this out, but in most cases they will not.
    On the other hand,the GCSE grade spread has some merit. Diversity and Equality can be taken to crazier heights, and in my opinion as some one who has seen the affirmative action working in US, does not produce good doctors and scientists.
    I see problems more at the bottom tier universities-all post-92s with just 1 exception in my opinion, where the students with the grade group BBB and BBC tend to concentrate. Here, the private colleges have an opportunity to mould their courses to suit these weaker students.

  2. Norman

    I think your example of a student with an A in Persian is a good one. Someone with an A in an irrelevant subject could be in the AAB group, whilst another with a B in a more relevant subject, or with excellent non-UK qualifications, would not be.