A Level reform: Developing A Levels with Higher Education (HE)

A Level reform: Developing A Levels with Higher Education (HE)

As part of its Higher Education (HE) engagement programme our UK exam board, OCR, has set up a central HE Forum with representation from across the sector from admissions tutors, managers and other personnel. In addition, subject groups have been set up with over 70 institutions and nearly 200 HE staff, with learned societies, employers and teachers being involved in direct development discussions. 

The exams regulator, Ofqual, launched a consultation on A Levels which closed in September 2012. OCR responded to the consultation using information gained from workshops about A Level reform as well as data received from The Great A Level Debate, a survey of more than 800 teachers which was conducted in partnership with TES. To read OCR’s submission to the consultation, please email OCR Partnerships.

Cambridge Assessment’s Research Division is supporting OCR with a significant programme of research to provide evidence to support developments in qualifications and curricula.

OCR HE Consultative Forum 

The purpose is to inform a strategic understanding of the requirements of qualifications designed to prepare young people for higher education.
  • OCR gathered a substantial range of views from HE about A Levels and the 16-19 curriculum (and wider) which it then tested out in a series of road shows aimed at those involved with first year undergraduates. Around 60 academics attended the events, which took place in January 2012.
  • A number of common themes and issues associated with the transition of young people to HE emerged. For example, differentiation is increasingly difficult due to the sheer increase in number of entrants combined with the volume of students achieving high grades. From this, OCR was able to identify key requirements such as skills being as important as knowledge and that HE wants students who are motivated, with the potential to succeed.
  • HEI members include: Aston, Bath, Bedfordshire, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, De Montfort, Durham, East Anglia, IoE, Keele, Kent, Liverpool, Lancaster, Leeds, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, Nottingham, Oxford, Oxford Brookes, Queen Mary- University of London, Queen’s University Belfast, Reading, Sheffield, Strathclyde, Southampton, Surrey, University College London, Warwick, Winchester, York.

OCR Subject Forums

These were set up to: identify key requirements and issues relating to qualifications in the subject area; and share and discuss relevant information about emerging policy developments which may impact on the future design and purpose of qualifications and the curriculum. 

  • Business Studies – more than 30 members including 12 HEI reps + Higher Education Academy, The Association of Business Schools, Coventry Building Society, Regents College London, The Economics, Business and Enterprise Association
  • Economics – more than 30 members including 14 HEI reps + APT Initiatives Ltd, TV Choice Ltd, Institute of Economic Affairs, The CR Academy, Business in the Community, University of Greenwich Business School, The Economics, Business and Enterprise Association
  • English – more than 30 members including 11 HEI reps + Shakespeare’s Globe, The English and Media Centre, National Association of Writers in Education, Royal Shakespeare Company, British Library, Writers’ Centre Norwich, Oxford University Press
  • History – more than 20 members including 7 HEI reps + Historical Association, Royal Historical Society, Schools History Project, Midlands History Forum, The National Archives, Imperial War Museum, The British Museum
  • Mathematics – more than 40 members including 11HEI reps + ACME, Royal Statistical Society, Joint Mathematical Council, Nuffield, Professional Engineering Institutions, Operation Research Society, Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistical Education, Gatsby Foundation, MEI, The Mathematical Association, The Institute of Mathematics and its Applications
  • Modern Foreign Languages – more than 40 members including 17 HEI reps + The National Centre for Languages, Independent Schools’ Modern Languages Association, University Council of Modern Languages, The Living Word Language Services, Chartered Institute of Linguists, The Vocational Language Company, National Association of Language Advisors
  • Psychology – nearly 40 members including 22 HEI reps + National Science Learning Centre, The British Psychological Society, Association of Heads of Psychology Departments, HMP Featherstone, Higher Education Academy, Association for the Teaching of Psychology
  • Science – more than 30 members including 9 HEI reps + BAE Systems, Nuffield, The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Royal Society of Biology, Wellcome Trust, SCORE, Royal Society of Chemistry, Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Association of Science Education, Institute of Physics
  • IT and Computing
  • Health and Social Care
  • There is also a Humanities forum. Members include: The British Library, Royal Geographical Society and The Historical Association. This forum is different to the others as it is focussed on a specific qualification development.

To join OCR's partnership with Higher Education, please email sally.brown@ocr.org.uk

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