University input on A-level standards thrown into doubt

A government plan for universities to have a central role in maintaining standards in new A-levels has been thrown into doubt.

Former education secretary Michael Gove called for universities to take “ownership” of the reformed A-levels being introduced from September. He wanted the institutions to have a leading role in determining initial subject content and assessment and then to carry out annual reviews.

But his successor Nicky Morgan does not appear to share the same goal. The education secretary has decided to stop funding the A Level Content Advisory Board (Alcab), which was set up by Russell Group universities to perform this function.

She has also said that universities would have no automatic part to play in future decisions on A-levels.

In a letter sent to Alcab last month Ms Morgan writes that its long-term role will “depend on [exams watchdog] Ofqual’s plans for a post-qualifications review process”.

Alcab has been closed down “for the time being” and registered as a dormant company.

Isabel Nisbet, Alcab’s executive director, told TES’ sister publication the Times Higher Education that “universities must continue to be involved in A-levels”. It would have been a good for lecturers to help to create the new exams, she added, because they advised on their content.

Mr Gove’s plan for universities to take the lead on A-levels had already run into problems, with opposition from some institutions over his decision to “decouple” the qualifications from AS-levels.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We will continue to involve universities in A-level reform. We asked the A-level content advisory board to provide advice on subject content for maths and further maths, foreign languages and geography A levels, and it successfully completed this work.”

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