Cambridge University will disregard a plea made last week to double-check teacher grade predictions for A-level results this year if students miss their offer requirements next month.
Instead, Cambridge will join with Oxford University in showing ‘flexibility’ to A-level students who fail to achieve their predicted grades.
Last week, Barnaby Lenon, former head of Harrow School and a former board member of the exam regulator Ofqual, warned that a “significant minority” of students might find themselves being awarded incorrect grades this year.
He urged universities to “double-check” with schools if students fail to attain their teacher-projected grades.
This year, teachers were placed in the position of calculating estimated grades for A-level students after the government sought to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by closing schools and colleges and abolishing normal summer exams.
Grades would be computed instead by teachers on the basis of mock exam results and earlier course performance, and then subjected to a nationwide statistical moderating process by exam boards.
Ofqual warned that a “substantial” proportion of this year’s A-level students will see at least one of their predicted grades altered, most likely downwards as the exam watchdog believed that many teacher predictions (or “centre-assessed grades”) had been too generous.
However, Cambridge has rebuffed Lenon’s plea for a double-check with schools, stating that the number of places they offer will be constrained by a government cap on student placements this year.
A spokesman for the university told the i newspaper: “We won’t be asking schools for centre-assessed grades.”
For its part, Oxford neither confirmed nor denied that it would approach schools for teacher predictions but concurred with Cambridge in confirming that consideration of other factors beyond A-level grades will be assessed when deliberations begin on whether to award places.
Both universities additionally confirmed that they were subject to a temporary student recruitment limit imposed this year by the government.
This would reduce the number of students with lower-than-predicted grades they could allow to take up places.
The new government limit will result in all universities in England being restricted to recruiting only those students they had forecast prior to the introduction of coronavirus crisis management measures, plus an additional 5%.
The spokesperson from Cambridge told i journalist, Will Hazell, that the university remained confident in its method of assessing each individual student applicant alongside contextualising data.
This ensures that Cambridge awards places to the most talented applicants, irrespective of their background.
The spokesperson continued: “We will be making use of this data again this year and will offer as much flexibility as we can within the confines of the Government cap on student numbers.”
An Oxford spokesperson, meanwhile, confirmed that precise information on this year’s recipients of the university’s offers would not be available until A-level results day.
The university would, however, “do whatever is in the candidates’ best interests”.
The spokesperson went on to address Oxford’s approach to any students from disadvantaged backgrounds who were adversely affected by the decision to base grading on mock exam results this year.
Oxford has asked for students from such backgrounds to be left out of the student cap numbers to ensure that they will not be “penalised for circumstances beyond their control”.