Birmingham uni - A levels not required

(57 Posts)
creamteas Fri 08-Mar-13 19:33:04

Birmingham university has started to make unconditional offers to some students on the basis of their AS levels and A2 predictions. This means that if a student didn't actually bother to take their A2s, they would get a place ahead of someone who just slipped a grade! The reports are that this is only for some subjects and the students have to have As at As and be predicted A*AA.

My uni are shock and I have real concerns about the differential impact, given that some schools are more likely to predict high grades that others.

I also think it is a bit strange that an uni that has pretend elite status would do this especially as it in subjects which do not have any other way of gauging the suitability of applicants such as interviews.

I know they really struggled to fill their places last year, and I'm guessing they wouldn't have done this if their applications for 2013 entry were strong.

creamteas Sun 10-Mar-13 16:42:26

Given that in my experience (looking at hundreds of UCAS forms) very few state schools predict A* this also is likely to mean that they are giving private school applicants preferential treatment.

webwiz Sun 10-Mar-13 16:00:20

yes but they aren't making unconditional offers to students to give them a chance, they are making offers to students who's schools expect them to achieve way over Birmingham's entry requirements. So its nothing to do with widening participation and is more about tempting top students away from other universities.

MariscallRoad Sun 10-Mar-13 15:26:59

Bhm’s unconditional offer would make sense of ‘fair access’ if it includes persons from disadvantaged backgrounds to give them a chance . This report from Sutton Trust is challenging a lot of thinking about ed; they say: "in a quarter of English sixth forms and colleges not a single student achieved the A-level grades needed to go to one of our leading universities” Probably Bhm has a point here.

fraktion Sun 10-Mar-13 14:03:07

Unconditional pre-A2 offers have existed for years. I had 2 back in 2003 and one was from Bham. They used to do it to snaffle the people Oxbridge rejected in my subject.

If they're implementing it as a wider 'policy' they're probably hoping to perform the same cleanup manoeuvre.

BackforGood Sun 10-Mar-13 13:46:50

I cetainly know of people offered "2 Es" in the 70s and 80s - not just at Oxford and Cambridge where there were separate tests, but all sorts of places.
I was also at a Parents' Talk last week, and representatives from 2 Universities (neither of which was Birmingham) talked about offering students they really wanted, unconditional offers (essentially, still 2 Es, as there is a basic requirement to enter University at all), as they found it meant that some students would put them as their 'first choice' and be more relaxed taking the final exams. I don't have a problem with it and it wouldn't be my ds in that cohort.
Not sure why you are so 'down' on Birmingham - all Universities have some departments which are weaker / better than others. You seem to have some personal axe to grind ?

True.

webwiz Sun 10-Mar-13 13:29:51

I agree that if you find the exam process stressful an unconditional offer is very tempting, but to get a prediction of 3A* you must already be doing pretty well within the exam system.

MariscallRoad Sun 10-Mar-13 10:27:32

Web I do not disagree with you that people with 'predicted' A*s should look at Oxbridge and the colleges you mention. Success rate though, at Ox for example, is about 18 pc. The rest should look for a safe alternative.

It appears Bhm’s hopes to attract are realistic: a % of A* predictions and offers in maths were not achieved in one uni mentioned; so these applicants need to have another place to go. Many candidates become aware that it is very hard to study in some of these unis. Their exams are v stressful and system is different from the rest . Some students feel this is not where they would want to study even if they have the grades. Still they can study well elsewhere and get a good degree. Finally, I agree some people can get nervous of exams. Stress affects performance in some.

I can imagine if you were someone who gets very nervous about exams, you might find Birmingham's offer attractive enough not to want to go to the slightly better places, though. People are different in terms of how they feel - every year some students will decide to go for a course they're technically over-qualified for, or will decide not to apply for places they might be able to get into, because they don't want to go. Maybe that's what Birmingham is hoping for?

webwiz Sat 09-Mar-13 23:44:32

But if you are predicted 3A* you should be targeting the top universities for your subject. Maths has high entry requirements and can include extra exams like STEP but it isn't so hard to get into that a good mathematician will end up be rejected by lots of courses (unless of course you only apply to the absolute top unis).

DD2 didn't actually consider Birmingham so I don't know anything about Maths there but if you were a top student it would be an insurance type choice rather than a firm.

I'm sure there'll be a rush of applications to Birmingham next year with people hoping for the unconditional offers rather than receiving them unexpectedly like they have this year.

MariscallRoad Sat 09-Mar-13 22:10:06

web it is hard to get a place in the colleges you mentioned even with 3xA*s. A grades are not sufficient. Some universities require their own maths/physics test to be taken followed by test at interview. About half to 3/4 in certain cases might pass the test but fewer of those are likely pass the interview. There re people with with A*s who did not apply to a university bec of the cost. But is poss that there are those who would put the place as a top choice.

fussychica Sat 09-Mar-13 16:35:20

When DS applied to B'ham 2 years ago- the last year of low fees - he was given an low offer well below the standard entry requirement without interview, although at the time they stated they always interviewed for his subject area. It didn't make him change his first choice and he rejected the place. They seemed miffed and unlike the other Uni's he rejected they followed it up, which was suprising.

Similarly, in this case it appears a number of the students who have received these offers are very wary of accepting because they a fairly sure they can meet their offers from what were/are their preferred Uni.

I don't think B'ham are sending the right signals to the students or about their establishment but they obviously feel there is a need to do this to try to secure numbers. Looking at the subjects concerned and the student room comments I don't think other uni's have much to be concerned about.

webwiz Sat 09-Mar-13 15:46:14

For Maths any students with those sorts of predictions would be looking at the universities with the best reputations for Maths and Birmingham certainly is not considered as on a par with Oxbridge/Imperial/Warwick/Durham/Bath. The only way that Birmingham would have applications of that calibre is if they are a 4th or 5th choice university or if someone doesn't have further maths which will make it difficult to get into one the top universities listed.

I think one university acting in a unilateral way like this distorts things a bit and means that students may make a decision that isn't the best for them in the long run.

There are crappy departments in all universities.

titchy Sat 09-Mar-13 15:39:24

The proposal to not have AS as an interim qual for a levels is for current year 9 cohort so you should be ok secret!

Creamteas - Hefce intend to redistribute the number control for 14/15 based on 13/14 intake numbers so maybe that's why Bham is takin this approach? Also interesting is the fee charged by one of the new unis Bedford maybe? Half price if you pay up front!

MariscallRoad Sat 09-Mar-13 15:31:41

Bhm says 'Pupils taking up maths places must be predicted to score three elite A* grades'. Now, this is a hard condition to achieve.
Not all elite universities teach every course perfect in all degrees. A lot of things might make a difference in the decisions of parents and students where to study -not just the status. for example B advertise v well themselves how well they support students: they offer a mentor all to all students not just those with specific needs. That makes a difference in the study.

Thanks creamteas.

creamteas Sat 09-Mar-13 14:34:57

secret Uni offers are made looking at grades achieved so far, but have usually always been on the basis of A2 results. In other words your offer is conditional on you achieving certain grades in your A2s.

In this case, Birmingham's offers are unconditional, that is if they are accepted, they can attend regardless of their A2 results.

I have a DS in y12 and was under the impression that uni offers were based on AS results - have I got this wrong?
Wasn't there a fuss recently when Michael Gove was threatening to abolish AS levels altogether and return to A levels taken at the end of year 13? If I recall the universities were against the idea because they believed that AS results were a more accurate measure of ability than teacher prediction?

MariscallRoad Sat 09-Mar-13 13:46:48

I also agree that some students get they As easily and some others work strenuously to get Bs. And perhaps the grades of some students does not tell much about their academic ability/aptitude for a course and neither tells us the difficulties they encountered in school or learning or other... Perhaps The grading system is not meant to grade ability allways. Some universities know this and use a load of their own testing for selection.

FellNel Sat 09-Mar-13 13:43:37

I know what creamteas means about Birmingham. My son got an offer from them for BBB, but all his other offers were for AAB. He choose a two non RG universities over Bham in the end, because they both had a better reputation by far, for his specific degree.

It sounds to me, if they're asking AA*A predictions, as if they are trying to cream off excellent students before they're snapped up elsewhere?

FWIW, in my subject Birmingham has a great reputation - it does vary a lot, I'm sure. I can imagine this might be a poor idea for students studying something Birmingham isn't great for, but might be good for, say, someone who is tossing up between Oxbridge with a tough offer, or early certainty here.

FellNel Sat 09-Mar-13 13:37:44

I was just about to say exactly what lily said in the very first response!

creamteas Sat 09-Mar-13 13:36:55

Birmingham is in the QS 100 top list and has v good rep

Like all unis, the reputation overall doesn't mean anything about the quality of teaching in different subject areas. It certainly does not have a good reputation in my subject area. It is also currently in the middle of an dispute over redundancies, with potential strike action, so is not necessarily a good place to either work or study at the minute.

webwiz Sat 09-Mar-13 13:32:29

Quite rare to be interviewed these days ILikeBirds - just for some courses eg medicine

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