The University of Surrey has become the latest higher education institution to lower its entry requirements for next year in recognition of the disruption to education caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Entry grades will be reduced by one grade for most undergraduate programmes starting in September 2021 to help relieve the pressure and anxiety faced by young people who will have had their learning significantly disrupted across two academic years.
Last week the University of Birmingham also announced it planned to reduce entry requirements for 2021 by one grade, meaning pressure on other universities to follow suit is likely to grow.
Lizzie Burrows, the director of recruitment and admissions at the University of Surrey, said: “We are taking this action now to relieve the pressure and anxiety facing this year’s applicants, as they experience ongoing disruption and uncertainty surrounding exams and assessment of their learning.
“By taking this step, we can provide one additional element of certainty and reassurance that these students will be protected from unfair disadvantage as a result of the impact of the pandemic.”
Degree programmes that are not included are regulated courses such as veterinary medicine, foundation year courses, four-year integrated master’s programmes and audition-based performance courses, which will retain the same entry requirements.
Experts have said that GCSE and A-level exams should be replaced with teacher assessments next year because of coronavirus disruption.
The Independent Sage group, chaired by former government chief scientific adviser David King, is calling for all primary school tests to be cancelled and for secondary school exams to be replaced with assessments by teachers with suitable moderation.
In the Commons last week, the education minister, Nick Gibb, said the government was working to ensure 2021 exams were fair, but that more details would be published shortly.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, made a humiliating U-turn this summer over Ofqual’s “centre-assessed grades”, which had used an algorithm to moderate A-level teacher-assessed grades partly in recognition of schools’ historic performance and was widely seen to disadvantage higher achievers at lower achieving schools.
Birmingham University’s vice-chancellor, Prof David Eastwood, last week said many prospective first years in the class of 2021 were likely to experience more than a year of interrupted learning by the time they sat their exams next summer. He said he hoped reducing the entry requirements would “alleviate anxieties”.
Earlier this month, Wales called off end-of-year GCSE and A-level tests for students this academic year. The Labour-controlled government said it would work with schools and colleges to put in place teacher-managed assessments as it was the fairest way given that the time students spend in school or college could vary greatly.
There have been calls for education institutions to work to lower grade requirements for disadvantaged students in particular, since many will have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis.