Where do all our A level students go?

NewVIc’s A-level university progression suggests that sixth forms which set excessively high A-level entry requirements are missing out on many students who could progress to higher education, including to the most selective universities.

I have already posted here about the university destinations of the NewVIc class of 2014 as a whole and also here about the tremendous range of university destinations of our vocational students.

This post is a breakdown of the degree courses started by our 343 A-level university progressors in 2014 and our data suggest that successful progression is not limited to those with high prior achievement.

Because we have roughly equal numbers of A-level and vocational students, it’s possible to compare course choices between these two routes. It’s evident that the A-level route is essential for progression to medicine and maths degrees, with all our progressors coming from this route. The majority, but not all, of law, English and humanities progressors also come via the A-level route. In education, engineering, sport, travel & tourism and performing arts the balance is very much the other way with a majority of progressors coming via the vocational route.

Progression to Russell Group universities

Overall, 79 NewVIc students progressed to Russell Group universities (if the Institute of Education is included as part of UCL). 58 of these were A-level students: 17% of all A-level students. 21 vocational students also progressed to Russell Group universities.

There is a marked difference in the A-level point scores of those who progressed to Russell Group universities and those who didn’t, with NewVIc Russell Group progressors scoring an average of 781 A-level points compared to the average of 646 points for the other university progressors. This wide gap confirms the fact that these universities expect much higher A-level grades on average.

However, the average GCSE point score of NewVIc A-level students who progressed to Russell Group universities was 6.15 (a little above a grade B average) not that much higher than the point score of the other A-level progressors at 5.87 (a little below a grade B average).

This narrow gap suggests that when trying to increase the numbers progressing to these universities, it is not sensible to be super-selective in terms of GCSE grades as this would exclude a number of successful students – including some who start with GCSE point scores as low as 5 (average grade C). So for example, had we prevented all applicants with an average GCSE point scores below 6 (grade B) from studying at A-level we would have been excluding 173 students who progressed to university including 17 who progressed to Russell Group universities. A further 18 students progressed with no GCSE points at all, usually because they were overseas educated. 5 of those students also progressed to Russell Group universities – including one to Oxford.

Science Technology Engineering and Maths

86 A-level students progressed to STEM degrees, 5 to medicine, 15 to engineering, 14 to maths and 12 to computing degree courses. 23 progressed to various health and biomedical degrees including 5 to pharmacy, 5 to podiatry, 3 to radiography, 2 to optometry and 2 to nursing. All the NewVIc students progressing to medicine or maths degrees came via the A-level route but vocational students are well represented all all the other STEM degree subjects and they form the largest proportion of those progressing to degrees in engineering and computing.

Business, Economics and Accounting

54 A-level students progressed to degree level study in these areas. Accounting was the single largest subject choice with 24 students and economics next with 11 students. Nearly twice as many vocational students progress to degrees in this sector.

Law and Criminology

39 A-level students progressed to degrees in law or criminology, a majority of the college total of 51. A total of 25 A-level students progressed to law degrees, the overwhelming majority of our law progressors.

Education and Social Work

19 A-level students progressed in this area; less than half the college total and these are popular choices for vocational health and childcare students.

Visual and Performing Arts

Only 18 out of our total of 63 students progressing to arts degrees come via the A-level route, reflecting the success of vocational students in performance, art, design and media who are able to develop a wider range of practical skills often in greater depth and whose qualifications are recognised and well understood by universities, conservatoires, art, dance and drama schools.

English, Linguistics and Languages

35 A-level students progressed to degrees in English literature, language, linguistics and comparative literature, with one each now studying Arabic, German and Spanish. A-level students form the largest proportion of the 41 progressors in this area.

Humanities and Social Sciences

78 A-level students progressed in this area, again this is the majority of the college total of 89 and includes 22 progressing to psychology degrees, 17 studying history, 11 politics and PPE, 10 sociology, 8 geography, 5 study of religion, 4 international relations and 2 anthropology.

Sports, Travel and Tourism

2 A-level students progressed to degrees in sports out of a college total of 46 in this area.

Related posts:

Investing in East London’s future (overall progression of NewVIc students in 2014)

Vocational education: rejecting the narrative of failure (vocational progression in 2014)

Guess what? Vocational students go to university too (vocational progression in 2013)

NB:  Data from each of these posts will not be identical as progression numbers can fluctuate during the autumn settling in period.

About Eddie Playfair

Principal of Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) East London. Blogging about education, politics and culture in a personal capacity. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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