A Levels, and Transitions to UK Higher Education, July 2022

The Covid-19 and Democracy Project is pleased to announce the release of the policy e-briefing The Covid-19 pandemic, A Levels, and Transitions to UK Higher Education.

This e-briefing is written by Dr Peter Finn, Associate Professor Radu Cinpoes, and Emily Hill of Kingston University, and features a foreword by Dr Melanie-Marie Haywood, Director of Education Development Service, Birmingham City University.

You can download the e-briefing below.

You can find an abridged version of our e-briefing, published on the UK Politics and Policy site of the London School of Economics, here.

An abridged audio version is available below.

The e-briefing tracks the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on A Levels across the last three academic years, and discusses the impact on those due to transition from A Levels to UK higher education in the coming months.

Looking forward to the 2022-23 academic year, the e-briefing highlights three key policy learning points for those working in UK higher education:

  • Academic support: The bulk of students finishing their A Levels in 2022 have had their education disrupted since the latter stages of their GCSEs. Institutions, teams, and individuals involved in the provision of university services and teaching should be mindful of the need to provide more in-depth support than normal for first-year and foundation students in the 2022-23 academic year. As well as maintaining an awareness of the differences in provision and support students may have received since March 2020.
  • Mental health: Mental health impacts have been considerable across all groups during the Covid-19 pandemic. Young people reflect this broader picture. Those involved in pastoral care and mental health support services within higher education should reflect on how they can best support students. Whilst other higher education staff should maintain an awareness of relevant institutional support services they can direct students struggling with their mental well-being to.
  • Inequality: Fostering equality, diversity and inclusion is a stated goal of universities across the UK higher education sector. Those working at all levels within the UK higher education sector should be aware of the exacerbation of inequality during the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to work towards policies aimed at fostering equality, diversity, and inclusion among those making the transition to higher education in the 2022-23 academic year and beyond. In particular, those with the ability to resource support to this end should think about how such resources can be best targeted.

Highlighting the value of the work, Head of the Department of Criminology, Politics and Sociology, Professor Sylvia Collins-Mayo said that:

‘Peter, Radu and Emily are doing important work in this project, exploring what the pandemic means for entrants into higher education. As they point out, the pandemic continues to be a significant factor affecting this year’s cohort. The challenge for the University sector is to support our new students so that they can still achieve their full potential, despite all they have been through. This project gives us critical insights to help us in this work.’

Likewise, discussing the importance of the e-briefing Dr Melanie-Marie Haywood highlights that:

‘This briefing paper provides a simple but crucial look at the past 3 years of A Level education, and documents the flux that has taken place from a policy perspective. However, the authors have also been able to interweave this with the real-life implications of policy decisions on students.’

Further nothing that:

‘Universities should seek to address the real barriers to equitable access and success, understanding that the experience of all students is not the same, and that many of the systems and structures in place in education continue to perpetuate the marginalisation of some.’

For further information contact: p.finn@kingston.ac.uk