A-Leveling The Playing Field?

A guide has been published telling students to avoid certain A levels if they want to go to university in a bid to make the system more open.

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Were you ever envious of your friends studying Media or Business? Well, you were right to take ‘traditional’ subjects, says a new handbook.

A guide released last week advises students not to study certain A levels if they want to get into university, in an attempt to demystify the application process.

The guide was compiled by the Russell Group, a lobbying group for Oxford, Cambridge and 18 other leading universities. Its contents confirm rumours that have long circulated about universities’ attitudes to so called ‘soft subjects’.

The publication comes after Education Minister David Willets last year called on universities to publish their ‘black list’ of subjects.

The guide warns students against taking more than one ‘soft’ subject. These include: Business Studies, Photography and Media Studies. It also suggests the ‘soft’ subjects are those with a vocational or practical bias.

Mona Ebert, a 2nd year at Homerton who took History of Art at A level and Photography at AS level, said: “I think it’s right for them to discriminate as they’re a bit of a joke.

“They were much easier, although Photography took up a lot of time and darkroom work.”

But Jenna Corderoy, a 2nd year lawyer at King’s who took Media and Law, disagreed, telling The Tab: “Law, which is often considered a ‘soft’ A-Level, was just as hard as history.

“It was this ‘soft’ A-Level that spurred me on to read law at university.”

Jessica Patterson from Homerton agrees. She studied Dance and Drama but insisted they were by no means easy. She said: “They required what a lot of increasingly ‘tick box’ orientated A-levels lack; some talent, original thinking and creativity.”

The guide, produced in collaboration with the Institute of Career Guidance, states that if you don’t study at least two ‘hard’ subjects, “many degrees at competitive universities will not be open to you.”

‘Hard’ subjects include: Maths, English, Geography, History, any of the three pure sciences and a classical or modern foreign language.

But Jenna Corderoy told The Tab that for some people that simply wasn’t an option, saying: “by the time I left school, my sixth form was no longer providing courses in the sciences, Geography and Maths due to lack of resources and teachers.”

Russell Group director general Dr Wendy Piatt said: “It is really important that students do not disadvantage themselves by choosing a combination of subjects at A-level which will not equip them with the appropriate skills and knowledge for their university course or which may not demonstrate effectively their aptitude.”

That Maths or Latin A Level may have cost you blood, sweat and tears, but it could well have been key to winning your place at university.