Universities accused of having list of banned A-level subjects

Posted Aug 21, 2010 by Lynn Curwin
The UK’s top universities have been accused of having an unpublished list of "banned" A-level subjects, putting students from comprehensives at a disadvantage when applying for places.
A view of Cambridge University
A view of Cambridge University
Catherine Murray
The Guardian reported that teachers suspect the Russell Group of universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, of rejecting pupils who take subjects on the lists.
They believe subjects such as art and design, law, drama and theatre studies, and business studies are on that list. These courses are offered mainly in comprehensives.
John Bangs, former head of education at the National Union of Teachers, told The Guardian that he suspected there was a single unofficial list and that: "The list is built on the assumption that these subjects are easier than others and not academic enough. This is just another sign of the Russell Group using a filter to stop people they don't want from getting into their universities. They have no concern about fairness. They should be far more transparent. If they have this list, let them publish it and show us the evidence that these subjects are easier."
Mike Griffiths, headteacher of Northampton School for Boys and a council member of the Association of School and College Leaders, said universities need to be upfront about it if they have a problem with particular subjects. One of his pupils has three A*s but was not accepted by university and he thinks it may be because drama was one of the courses.
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said none of the universities in the group banned any A-level subject, but that most universities provide very clear information on which courses will not be considered when making admissions decisions.
The London School of Economics publishes a list of subjects which are not preferred, as did Cambridge University until last year.