The Education Secretary’s letter to exam regulator Ofqual, in which he asked for formal control of A-level content to be passed from exam boards to universities, has caused many to stress the need to consider students not going to university.

Michael Gove wrote to the chief regulator of the exam regulator, Glenys Stacey, earlier this week in a letter that highlighted his concern that the current A-level system isn’t preparing students well enough for higher education.

Responding to the Education Secretary’s plans, Stacey said: "Ofqual welcomes the intention to give universities a larger role in the design and development of A-levels."

She added: "We want A-levels to be the best possible preparation for young people's futures. We have spoken to employers, those in schools and in higher education and they tell us that A-levels need to cover sufficient depth and breadth so that students can hit the ground running when they go on to the next stage of their lives.

"We think that universities have a big role to play in making sure they do. We have also compared A-levels with qualifications in other countries."

Ofqual has now released research that it commissioned to find out what HE institutions, teachers and employers thought about A-levels. The report highlights concerns about the preparedness of students going into higher education following the completion of A-levels.

Responding to the report, curriculum manager for the Association of Colleges Debbie Ribchester said: “It is pleasing to see from the Ofqual report that A-levels are seen positively by not only universities but also the teachers and employers who were involved in this research."

She added: "If A-level curricula are to be changed then we think it would be right to include stakeholders, employers, further education colleges and sixth form colleges in the process.

"This would ensure that the development is not too narrowly focused on university entrance but more broadly suited to those students who will be entering the world of work or broadening their horizons beyond university.

"We have seen that the recent increase in tuition fees has meant that more and more employers are offering access to work straight from level three qualifications."

Others responding to the Education Secretary’s letter this week have also highlighted the need to consider those who may not choose to go to university and the importance of skills and expertise that can be applied in the workplace post A-levels.

The chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies Jill Lanning said: "Of course we would recommend that young people should give serious consideration to vocational qualifications that can lead to higher education or employment with the opportunity of studying for higher level professional qualifications.

"However for those that take A-levels and will be going into employment these qualifications need to deliver an education that is more rounded than merely being a preparation for a degree programme.  A concentration on the demands of HE to the exclusion of the needs of employers would be a huge dis-service to those young people.

"Here we have sympathy for our colleagues in the JCQ awarding bodies whose expertise in the design of qualifications and balancing a range of needs including those of learners and teachers seems to have been ignored."

Lanning said that finding a way to accommodate the diverse and competing wish lists from the 109 universities in the UK would be no small challenge for them and for the regulator, Ofqual.

Commenting on the Education Secretary’s letter, Neil Bentley, Deputy Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry welcomed a debate on improving standards but also felt that focus should not just be on how best to prepare young people for university, but also on how to ensure they are well equipped for work.

He said: "Many young people choose to go straight into a job after A-levels, or start an apprenticeship, so they need to have developed essential employability skills, such as team working and time management, as well as academic rigour.

"Businesses value the A-level system as a key benchmark for recruiting the right young people, but believe that there is room for improvement. It’s crucial that the Government involves employers in any future changes to the system."

Responding to Gove’s letter, the National Union of Students warned against an elitist approach to A-level reform following the recent correspondence between Michael Gove and Ofqual and has called for ‘proper engagement with the diversity of modern routes to study and work’.

NUS President Liam Burns said: "The idea that A-levels should simply be concerned with admission to the traditional universities is at best hopelessly naive and at worst a purposefully elitist call to return to the top-down culture of the 1950s.

"There is no good reason why universities should be put in the uniquely privileged position of engineering an A-level system that must cater for a wide variety of learners and foster a wide diversity of routes to study and work which increasingly require flexibility rather than a linear approach.

"If Michael Gove truly wants to improve standards or demystify the university experience for those considering applying, then that is a laudable aim, but to pigeon-hole the purpose of A-levels as university admissions or to further restrict access to the top grades is not the right way to go about it."

This week’s news coincides with the launch of a website linking universities and A level students - The Faculties ( helps universities to reach prospective students through free video podcasts by university lecturers speaking on topics from a range of subjects from the A-level curriculum.

Funded by JISC and supported by the major exam boards, its aim is to give potential university students an understanding of university teaching.

Linsey Humphries

(Pictured: Education Secretary Michael Gove)

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 2 days ago

RT @NCFE: ‘For as long as humans have worked, and whatever industry they may have worked in, success has always been predicated on having t…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page