Somebody drew my attention yesterday to a discussion on a forum about getting a place at medical school by using OU points rather than A levels. Quite a few universities specifically say that they are open to this possibility. On most websites for universities, they list a range of other qualifications which might be accepted instead of the conventional GCSEs and A levels. There is no doubt that this happens. We saw the case of Shena Deuchars, the new Treasurer of Education Otherwise, whose daughter is studying law at Exeter on the strength of OU points.
There are one or two aspects of this which need to be considered carefully, before anybody puts too much trust in this route. Most of the alternative qualifications listed by the major universities relate to foreign equivalents of A levels. Run your eye down the lists and you will find that for each country there are lists of matriculations and so on which universities rightly take as being the same value as British A levels. However, when a medical school says that one does not need A levels, this does not actually mean that they admit anybody from this country without them. A while ago Shena Deuchars was promoting as a 'myth' the idea that one needed to have A levels to study as a vet. This claim was made because some places denied that they were restricting their intake to students with A levels and saying that they looked at each candidate on her merits. This is fair enough, but does not really tell us whether or not anybody without A levels in this country has actually qualified as a doctor or vet. This is the crucial question, not whatever guff they stick up on their website! So, as regards to the comment yesterday drawing attention to the supposed use of OU points to get into medical school, does anybody know of a doctor who grew up in this country and did not take GCSEs or A levels? Does anybody know of a vet like this? A solicitor? This is the acid test of such an approach to avoiding the taking of GCSEs and A levels. I certainly know people who have got to university to study drama, art and film without taking these qualifications. I have not heard of anybody who has managed it for physics or medicine. I do not say that it has not happened, which is why I would be keen to hear about such cases.
Another way in which relying upon Open University points can handicap one is in the case of places like Edinburgh, for instance. Anybody wishing to study any of the humanities there will find that it is necessary to have at least a GCSE in a language. This is the sort of thing which one would not guess until actually making an application and it is a deal breaker. You could have six A levels at A* or any number of OU points, but without that GCSE in French, you will not get a place to study politics. Edinburgh is not alone in this sort of thing.
So can we now have a few details of professionals who have grown up in this country without taking A levels or GCSEs, together with the names of the institutions where they studied? This would be far more valuable than any number of quotations from websites asserting that this or that university will consider each case on its merits.