The story goes that tried and tested methods are the best. Our nation as well as western societies have a penchant for sticking to what we know best. Even in the business world the saying goes “don’t reinvent the wheel.” However, rethinking the status quo is always of great value, be it out of necessity to replace or improve, or out of pure venture of discovery.
Here I would like us to go back to the drawing board with regards to the move from A-level to university studies. For anyone who has not completed A-levels, the idea is that learners get six whole terms to learn the material, develop as people, and become the well-rounded individuals they are expected to be in preparation for university life. This description, unfortunately, is far from reality.
Putting aside the hoops A-level students are expected to jump through to satisfy the expectations of examiners and examining boards, both timetabled hours as well as hours of personal time are set aside to go through the university application process.
This procedure is often assumed to consist of nothing more than applying for a course; however, this is far from the case. Many months before sixth formers and college students reach applicant status, they have to dedicate hours to talks on the ins and outs of university life, finding suitable courses, and going to open days. All of this takes time. This timely cost is deducted theoretically from the applicants’ free time and practically from their study time. From the second the decision is reached to go on to university, the prospective student is automatically disadvantaged.
In recent weeks online and in print there have been many arguments put forward in support of gap years, raising the university age, and working before going to university. Jumping on this bandwagon, I think the entire university application procedure should be detached from the two year learning period during sixth form and adjoined to the end of college life as an additional term or year during which sixth formers can really focus on their applications and take that additional time to work, grow, become more mature, and be better prepared for university life. That additional time they could also spend on exploring their hobbies and interests and possibly discovering new talents they never knew they had.