Lacking traditional academic qualifications will no longer be a bar to study at Oxford, as the University will now accept applications from students with new government Diplomas as well as A-levels.
Oxford will now consider students with an Advanced Engineering Diploma for a place on an Engineering course. However Diplomas such as Hospitality, IT or Health and Beauty are still ruled out by the Admissions Office.
Mike Nicholson, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, said that the University recognised some people may be qualified for entry onto Oxford degrees despite lacking A-levels.
He said, “this provides a route for those who opt to study the Advanced Diploma in Engineering to apply to study Engineering at Oxford.”
He added, “Oxford has always looked at more than just qualifications – academic ability and potential is assessed through a range of measures.”
Nicholson emphasised that Oxford encouraged all appropriately qualified students to apply regardless of their school or college background.
The Advanced Engineering Diploma, which is to be launched in 2010, is worth the equivalent of three and a half A Levels. Oxford applicants must also have a Physics A-level to apply for an Engineering degree.
The new Diplomas designed by the government are largely vocational and include ten days work experience as part of the qualification.
Some students think those with Diplomas will face some academic difficulties. One commented, “no one at Oxford has done anything vocational really. I don’t know if a Diploma would prepare you for the type of work here.”
However, many students feel this move will not make much difference to the applications system. One student said, “If the Diploma is worth more than 3 A Levels, you’ve still got to be pretty academic.”
Jim Knight, Minister for Schools and Learners, claims the benefit of the Diploma system is that students have, “a genuine choice about where their qualifications take them, be it university or straight towards employment.”
Almost all the Russell Group Universities have responded positively to the new Diploma system. Mike Nicholson maintains that the new qualifications “have the greatest relevance for our courses.”
He said Oxford academics involved in the project are keen to “ensure that the Diplomas can deliver the highly rigorous academic content and study skills that candidates to highly competitive universities need.”