Category Archives: higher education



Look at the facilitating subjects-they do help


Its worth reminding ourselves, just occasionally, that Universities are independent and autonomous organisations and so are responsible for their own admissions decisions. The social mobility and access agendas, and the work of the access regulator OFFA can sometimes muddy the water on this issue.

It has been made clear by Russell Group universities (ie the self-appointed elite) that if you want to maximise your chances of admission to their universities they rate some qualifications as more rigorous and robust than others. The term  Facilitating subjects  is now often used when discussing admissions to HEIs.

Facilitating subjects are a group of subjects that the Russell group of universities identified in their Informed Choices publication that are usually considered to be helpful and/or required for particular courses at their universities. Informed Choices says that pupils need ‘ to have clear information about how the subjects that they choose to study in the sixth form or at college  can affect their options at university and their chances in life. That way, they can make well-informed decisions.’

Such openness and transparency by universities can, it is thought, help applicants and advisers understand the prior qualifications needed or preferred by applicants to specific courses.

Informed Choices says.. ‘some university courses may require you to have studied a specific subject prior to entry, others may  not. However, there are some subjects that are required more often than others. These subjects are sometimes referred to as facilitating subjects’.

Subjects that can be viewed as ‘facilitating’ subjects are:

• Mathematics and Further Mathematics

• English (Literature)

• Physics

• Biology

• Chemistry

• Geography

• History

• Languages (Classical and Modern)


Informed Choices -a Russell Group Guide to Making Decisions about Post 16 Education-  2012


BIS to launch a new education industrial strategy


The BIS is taking the lead in developing an education industrial strategy. Three workshops have taken place so far, with stakeholders, to help inform this process. Two last year, one this (February). A group of education service providers met the exports Minister, Lord  Green, last year complaining that not nearly enough was being done to support UK education exports, and what support that existed was piecemeal and lacked strategic direction, unlike our main competitors. (US, Canada, Australia etc).Our officials could ensure better information about  local  opportunities, potential partners,  help with access  and research and arrange targeted sector specific delegations. It is now  anticipated that a   new Strategy will be published in late May, or June of this year.

The BIS has tended to focus mainly on Higher Education, without paying much attention to other education export areas. UK providers are not only opening and running  schools abroad, where our independent schools enjoy a formidable reputation, but are  also involved with providing advice and  support  to governments,  managing programmes  on school improvement,  schools inspections, curriculum development, teacher training, examinations and testing  and so on. English language teachers and courses are also much in demand. A more activist approach towards industrial policy might help – if directed towards industries such as education where the UK has a competitive advantage.  The Government talks big on the need for exports to help drive our recovery but has been remarkably slow about providing support and advice for companies looking at these potential markets, particularly in education. Hopefully the new  BIS strategy will lead to a step-change in   UK Plcs approach.




A new report the ‘National Strategy for Access and  Student Success; Interim report to the Department for Business,  Innovation and Skills by the  Higher Education Funding Council for England  and the Office for Fair Access   identifies, interalia , a major  area of concern  in relation to  easing access to higher education for the most disadvantaged pupils-  namely ‘the changes that came into effect in September 2012 to careers education and guidance.’ In short, schools were given  statutory responsibility for providing access for their pupils  to good quality independent careers  guidance.

The report states ‘The Education Act 2011 ends the statutory requirements for local authorities to deliver a universal careers service to young  people. Schools have instead been placed under a statutory duty to secure careers advice but have not been given any additional funding to do so. The requirement to provide careers education has also been removed.’ The report then identifies evidence reflecting these concerns. It states ‘A report by the Work Foundation argues that ‘without careers education, careers guidance is reduced to an abrupt and isolated intervention’. They urge that ‘careers education should be embedded in the curriculum as early as primary schools and expanded on with age’

The report continues ‘ In its evidence to the Education Select Committee in October 2012, the Institute of  Careers Guidance said of the guidance offered to young people:

a. There is no overall coherence of career guidance provision whatsoever for young people up to 18.

b. For young people in schools, provision is a postcode lottery subject to budgets and head-teachers’ commitment to independent, impartial career guidance.

c. The service in schools is at best restricted in terms of student coverage and  limited to the 30 weeks of term-time provision. In the past, students and parents  have always appreciated the opportunity to access independent career guidance  during school holidays. Now, at these times, it is not possible to access independent career guidance without payment.

d. E-mail correspondence between the Association of South East Colleges and  the Skills Funding Agency has highlighted that the National Careers Service website excludes a range of courses offered by colleges of further education that are   not funded by the Skills Funding Agency.

e. Young people between 16 and 18 who are in employment but wish to  change direction or develop their career prospects do not have access to any  independent face-to-face careers guidance service without payment

Furthermore, in its report of 2011, the International Centre for Guidance Studies argued that the situation for schools was challenging as they adapt to the loss of  Aimhigher, Business Education Partnerships and the erosion of the Connexions service.

The centre argues that ‘the removal of the statutory duty to provide careers education  could result in a focus on “activities” rather than on a developmental curriculum’

Crucially, this National Strategy for Access and Student Success report says  in Para 145 pg 51 :

‘ In light of such concerns, we anticipate that the final report may recommend that a  greater governmental focus on issues of advice and guidance within schools and  colleges will be important in terms of maximising the return on investment in widening  participation to HE. The strategy will also explore how HE can most effectively engage in  supporting good information, advice and guidance (IAG) concerning HE in schools and  colleges in the new environment.’


Experts agree that face to face careers  guidance from an independent, qualified professional   is, more often than not,  the best form of  careers advice and  this is particularly the case for the most disadvantaged pupils. A number of reports, including those mentioned above, stress the importance  of easy access to high quality advice.  This will help ensure  that pupils  are better equipped to make  informed choices  regarding  the pathways into further and  higher education , training and work as well as  improving  access to higher education for the most disadvantaged pupils  and in  advancing  the governments social mobility agenda.While government guidance encourages face to face advice, where appropriate, it is left to schools to decide the  type  and scope of advice they will offer to their pupils.Given that there is no ring fenced funding for this advice , experts believe that schools, under budgetary pressure ,will opt for cheaper, lower quality  forms of  advice ie telephone advice and access  to advice through a web portal. The new National Careers Service is focused mainly on the needs of  adults.

Note 2

From September 2012, the Education Act 2011 placed schools under a duty to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils in years 9-11. The Careers Guidance in Schools Regulations 2013 will extend the age range to which the duty applies. From September 2013, the duty will be extended to include all registered pupils in year 8 (12-13 year olds) and years 12 and 13 (16-18 year olds).

Note 3

A  CIPD survey this month finds that parents and pupils are not getting sufficient or appropriate  advice in schools  on Apprenticeship options, which affects their take up and credibility.The survey – Employee Outlook: Focus on Apprenticeships – looked at responses from more than 400 employees with children under the age of 18. It found two-thirds of parents believed apprenticeships were a good career option, yet, only 15 per cent of them thought  school teachers gave   their children  enough information about them as an alternative to a university education.



Could   they help UK Universities select students more fairly?


Universities are keen to ensure that they have a clear idea of a students potential in deciding admissions and not simply to rely on exam results.  Measuring potential is not easy and cant really be done by looking at a students application (UCAS) form, contrary to the claims made by some admissions tutors.

They have looked across the Atlantic for inspiration  looking in particular at the SAT  aptitude test (the SAT Reasoning TestTM) as a tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE) either as a standalone tool or one used in conjunction with GCSEs and AS/A2 levels  to determine admissions.

SAT are multiple-choice tests required for admission by several top US universities (although they are not the only test available). It is sometime assumed  that SATs are similar to GCSEs or A levels . They are not. They are basically  IQ tests designed to measure potential rather than to measure what you have learned  at school.

So if SAT tests are supposed to measure potential, do they do this effectively? There is much debate about this.  However, given that a cottage industry  has developed in tutoring students to help them pass  the SAT there  are grounds for doubting  that the tests truly measure potential.  SAT questions are quite particular and the skills to answer them are not often taught in schools. Hence the  cottage industry ,selling textbooks and extra tuition Students wanting to take SATs must usually register independently, pay for the test and travel to an SAT test centre. For rural students, the nearest location may be  some distance And then there is the problem of revising. Poorer students inevitably are disadvantaged.

In the UK, back in 2005, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) was commissioned to evaluate the potential value of using an the SAT Reasoning TestTM as an additional tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE). This five-year study was co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS), the NFER, the Sutton Trust and the College Board. The primary aim of the study was to examine whether the addition of the SAT® alongside A levels is better able to predict HE participation and outcomes than A levels alone. And  whether it  might help identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.

The study found that of  the prior attainment measures, average A level points score is the best predictor of HE participation and degree class, followed by average GCSE points score. The inclusion of GCSE information adds usefully to the predictive power of A levels. In the absence of other data, the SAT® has some predictive power but it does not add any additional information, over and above that of GCSEs and A levels (or GCSEs alone), at a significantly useful level. But  could the SAT® identify economically or educationally disadvantaged students with the potential to benefit from HE whose ability is not adequately reflected in their A level results; and  could the SAT®  distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get straight A grades at A level.

The study  also found ‘no evidence that the SAT® provides sufficient information to identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.’

In addition  ‘the SAT® does not distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get three or more A grades at A level. The SAT® Reading and Writing components do add some predictive power for some classes of degree at highly selective universities, but add very little beyond the information provided by prior attainment, in particular prior attainment at GCSE.’

So it is pretty safe to conclude that the SAT is no panacea for measuring student potential and would have limited utility for Higher Education Institutions in this country to help them design a fairer admissions process that fully takes into account an applicants potential.

Use of an aptitude test in university entrance: a validity study Final Report-3 December 2010- NFER-Sutton Trust



Does it make sense?


The Government says that it wants A Level students to follow a broad academic programme, post 16, that prepares them for degree-level study and keeps open as many university course options as possible.  It wants universities to help design A levels too. And for them to concentrate  first on  the so called  ‘ facilitating subjects’. The facilitating subjects are those  that are most often required by universities. The list is made up of Maths and further maths; Physics; Biology; Chemistry; History; Geography; Modern and classical languages; English Literature. (see Russell Group FAQs)

The government has introduced a new measure into the school league tables for the first time this year. It’s a measure of the percentage of 18 year olds who achieved overall grades AAB or better in these  facilitating subjects. These institutions would usually expect at least two of those subjects to have been taken for most of their degree courses.  The Government, however, is judging schools by whether students studied these subjects in all three of their A-levels.  Christopher Jefferys in a blog for the Good Schools Guide, says there are grounds for asking- why? Of course these subjects are important, he accepts.  By what logic does having taught more pupils for this narrow range of subjects indicate that one school is providing a better or more successful education than another? Given the proportion of senior politicians and cabinet members who studied PPE at Oxford, he wonders how many of them would have passed the three-A-levels-in-facilitating-subjects-at-grades-AAB. The  Prime Minister for the record took  A-levels in History of Art, History, and Economics (with Politics), so he scores one out of three.  So, suggests Jefferys, this measure-three facilitating subjects- on the face of it looks questionable and arbitrary. He has a point.

Laura McInerney,  a former teacher, now consultant, writing in the Guardian this week, would probably agree. She  is at a loss to understand why these subjects are regarded as  ‘facilitating’, as leading universities do not actually require three of these subjects. The Russell Group only suggests taking at least two of these  subjects. And then only if a student wants to keep their  options open. McInerney finds little logic in the approach.   She writes ‘A student can study geography at Oxbridge without having done geography A-level. To do music, they must have studied music at A-level. Hence, not having music actually closes that option, whereas not having geography does not. So the list fails immediately even by its own logic.’ Indeed.


The Head of Tiffin School  wrote  to the Director of the Russell Group, pointing out that only 44% of their students got AAB in facilitating subjects, but 89% got into Russell Group universities (Source LSN)




The latest High Fliers study suggests the top employer of new graduates in 2013 is Teach First, with 1,260 vacancies, followed by the consultancy firms Deloitte and PwC, planning to hire 1,200 new graduates each. Teach First, inspired by an American scheme, recruits top graduates into teaching and supports them to ‘ raise the achievement, aspirations and access to opportunity of pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds.’ The trainees join its Leadership Development Programme which involves teaching for a minimum of two years, achieving a PGCE and wider leadership skills training. After the two years, more than half the graduates  continue to teach within schools in low-income communities, with many moving into middle and senior leadership positions. Those who don’t stay in teaching have acquired useful skills that they can use throughout their careers but have also developed an understanding of teachers and teaching that may help raise the status of the profession.

Research from Aston University confirms the conclusion from the High Fliers report (Jan 14) that graduates need work experience while at university to stand a better chance of gaining graduate employment. The study shows that placement courses can double a student’s employment prospects. Yet fewer placement courses are currently being offered by universities.



Oxbridge and Snobbery

Ebdon may have a point


Les Ebdon’s comments about snobbery in the choice of HE institutions prompted attacks from Lord Adonis and Nick Gibb this week. Did they have a point?

The idea that some pupils don’t want to go to Oxbridge seems to escape many who promote better access.  It is also true that the Sutton Trust ,certainly initially, seemed to imply that open access was  all about getting disadvantaged  pupils into Oxbridge. Their approach now,to be fair , is  much more inclusive.

There are plenty of pupils who want to study a particular course, which is not available in Oxbridge. Camilla Cavendish made a good point in the Times this week on this score. For what  its  worth, and I think long and hard before bringing my personal experience to bear on any issue, I didn’t  sit Oxbridge entrance because I wanted to study political violence and terrorism (sad, but true) and neither Oxford nor Cambridge offered any course that was  remotely relevant. I went  to Exeter, instead, and my tutor, a former general   was, at the time ,the leading expert in the UK on the subject  I  had no regrets, but I cant vouch for him! Cavendish, drawing from her personal experience,  in the Times on 5 December wrote ,interalia:

‘My niece has just finished at a sixth-form college where, along with a few other pupils, she decided to apply for Oxford after an academic from there came to visit. Five were offered a place but three of them decided not to go. When I asked why, they said they hadn’t been intimidated by the quads and spires but they preferred other courses. One wanted to do languages at Leeds because “it has the best reputation for translators”. The next preferred to read English at Glasgow because the syllabus was less prescriptive. Another wanted to go to Manchester inspired by Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, the Nobel prize winners who discovered graphene there. They’d all made mature decisions, based on their passions and their potential rather than being swayed by pushy parents.

It is probably worth noting that, for the first time in living memory, the red bricked Manchester University has more Nobel Prize winners on its staff than either Oxford – which has none – or Cambridge, which has two.

Time for less snobbery?


The government is trying a new approach to supporting education exporters. Can it work? Patrick Watson

Published in ‘ Education Investor-’ September 2012

This government, it claims, is committed to export-led growth. Education is our seventh largest export industry, worth over £14 billion in 2008-09, and is growing at a rate of 4% a year but, ministers feel, it could do more.

So, in a tacit acknowledgement that our exporters need more support, UK Trade & Industry is moving to offer a ‘system to system’ approach to help education exporters. Its new UK Education Services unit aims to bring the best expertise in the private, public and voluntary sectors together under one roof, to enable a more joined up approach to education exports. The intention is to sell international customers a distinctive UK offer comprising a number of providers working together. This, the theory goes, will be more attractive to potential customers than a number of competing UK offers that meet only parts of their needs. This is quite a change. Until now, the go to organisation for UK education businesses abroad has been the British Council (BC), but that bodys inadequacies are well-known. Its too thinly spread, lacking the capacity, expertise or, indeed, competence to provide the support commercial education firms require. It also suffers from a conflict of interests. Though tasked with representing our education services, in practice the BC often competes with it, by providing language training and so on itself. Accordingly, it often keeps valuable commercial information to itself. To compound the problem, as its grant funding has decreased, its exhorted its staff to act more commercially. This toxic mix of conflicts of interest, overstretch and quality deficit once amounted to an irritation. Increasingly, though, its turned into a crisis.

UKTIs latest initiative, then, could represent a step change in the way the government supports the UKs education industry. We know whats needed: the UKTI spells it out in an overview of its new approach.

First, the identification of major opportunities, through detailed country market analysis. Second, engagement with UK education providers and supporting agencies to identify those with the capability and interest in exporting to these countries.Third, engagement with the host government contacts to develop opportunities to the point where they can be offered to UK providers. And, finally, facilitation and support to UK providers in bidding for contracts.

So far, UKTI has mainly focused on the needs of Higher Education institutions, but increasingly it accepts the need for a more inclusive approach. After all, the UK exports a wide-range of education services: independent schools and their franchises, school improvement, qualifications and assessment, inspection, teacher training, language teaching… Such specialist services are often poorly understood by our local representatives, and so havent had the support that they might.

The UKTI approach sounds promising, but  will  need to be backed by political will and resources. Secondments from the private sector would give this initiative some focus and traction. Using education service providers as a sounding board will help, too.

But heres one more idea. The BC receives a lot of grant money specifically to promote UK education, but the consensus is that this has not been used cost-effectively. Why not simply transfer it to UKTI, and use it to fund, say, secondments from the private sector?

Published in Education Investor September 2012 Vol 4 No 7

Education Investor is organising a conference in London  on 17 October 2012  ‘Exporting excellence: capitalising on the global value of UK education’, at the Westminster Conference Centre


UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) works with UK-based businesses ‘ to ensure their success in international markets, and encourage the best overseas companies to look to the UK as their global partner of choice.’ It is  part of the  Department for Business Innovations and Skills (BIS). Lord Green is the Trade and Investment Minister .

Note 2

Unsurprisingly the BC has taken exception to my views on its role and competence, insisting on a  right to reply in Education Investor. Its weak reply in letter form  amounts to  flannel and flummery so typical of that organisation , signally failing to address the core issues raised. It   suggests that I am  articulating my clients views, the implication being that these views do not represent the broader education sector.  Wrong. There is a broad consensus among  UK based education providers, most of whom are not my clients  (if only!) about the inability of the BC to represent their interests, for the reasons given above. Many have to work in partnership with the BC or suffer commercially without  fully understanding the reasons why. The BC behaves like the worst kind of monopoly, and  in consequence  damages UK education interests abroad in a sector where we should have some competitive advantage. It really is that simple. The real shame is that our politicians and civil servants allow  the BC to get away with it. But for how much longer?



Need for a more coherent approach across government and agencies

Tightened Visa policy harming Higher Education


According to a new report from Wild ReSearch the value of UK education exports was estimated to be £14.1 billion in 2008 – 9. This value is predicted to grow annually by about 4 per cent in real terms, so it would be worth about £21.5 billion in 2020 and £26.6 billion in 2025 (both in 2008/9 prices).

However, the report says that the  value of education as an export from the UK needs to be much more fully recognised by the government and a coherent joined up  approach across departments and agencies developed to support and promote UK Education . It adds that  the tightening up of  student visas needs to be sorted out. It says ‘ It is unwise to have such strong restrictions placed upon those we seek to encourage into the country. Alongside this, reputation management is of great importance; it must be ensured that the strong British brand of world class education is maintained. Any dilution of the standard of education will be noted by international students and trade will be taken elsewhere’.  The export value of higher education specifically makes up a large share of this, worth £7.9 billion annually. (although there has been considerable growth in recent years in UK based independent schools setting up abroad  and in  UK education service providers winning business providing, for example, advice and support on qualifications, English language teaching, teacher training, quality assurance,  the curriculum, school inspections and school and system-wide improvement)

Most of the current support for exporters  through UKTI is focused on education equipment supply. The British Councils role is regarded as controversial. As a subsidised quango it is tasked with promoting British culture and education abroad yet competes  directly with other UK companies abroad  while purporting to represent  their interests. Given the degree of  distrust of the British Council and the conflict of interests inherent in its role and practice, the reports recommendation that the  British Council (and UK Trade and Investment )needs to ensure  that it is  doing all it  can to support  education looks naïve . Though a more focused  sector support role from UKTI would almost certainly be welcomed ,  the same could not be said  for  giving a greater role to  the British Council.   Indeed, if anything,  most UK education service providers would want some restrictions placed on the BC and its anti-competitive practices. Nobody believes that the BC is competitively neutral. Nor should they.

On Higher Education, which is the main focus of this report, it says that  there is a real danger today that  ‘many international students are given the impression that the UK is closed for business as the Home Office has tightened up student visa policy. It is often appears that the Government is seeking short-term political gain rather than focussing on the long term growth plan.’

There are signs too that the UK’s share of the international student market is beginning to  shrink even though all of its leading competitors, the other Anglophone countries, the USA, Canada and Australia, have retained theirs. With 20 per cent, the USA has the largest market share.

The report seeks ,importantly, to  dispel one big myth- that foreign students are taking the places of UK students.  Contrary to public perception, international students do not take home students’ spaces at university; indeed, they are vital for keeping certain university courses running, especially STEM subjects and post-graduate courses. This is what the Home Affairs Select Committee had to say about it:

“International students … pay more than UK students for their courses and, in effect, subsidise the educational system in the UK – under current arrangements the average fee for a non EEA student was £8,600 in comparison to £2,200 for an EEA student and the Independent Migration Advisory Committee found that international students contribute 37% of the total university income from fees. Most universities are educational charities and therefore any surplus in income is usually invested in improving facilities and increasing the size or pay of the work force.”

A survey across eleven countries was carried out by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Education USA between 2009 and 2010 which received over 9,000 valid responses. The results of the survey suggest that “over two thirds (69%) of respondents worldwide felt that the United States welcomes international students, as compared with 42 per cent for Canada, 34 per cent for Australia, and 33 per cent for the United Kingdom.”

The report warns that New visa rules mean the UK’s top universities and schools are in danger of losing their appeal to foreign students. Indded this appears already to be happening. It says planned government changes to student visas risk deterring legitimate students. And it warns that students who may once have come to the UK could opt for the US. Australia  or Canada instead.

The recent changes restrict postgraduate employment in the UK to those with a top degree and a job with an accredited employer paying over £20,000 a year.

Details of the plans were announced last week by Immigration Minister Damian Green.

“It is vital that we continue to attract the brightest and the best international students but we have to be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay,” said Mr Green.

Most education exporters would agree with the leading recommendation of this report  ie

‘The UK government should reassess the full impact of all policies related to the export of education to ensure the potential for economic growth is optimal. The key departments here are BIS, DfE, FCO, the Home Office and UKTI’

One would only add that the DFID, seeking to bring education to the most disadvantaged in the developing world, should also be included. The private sector in education  does have a role in bringing education to the poorest communities abroad.

It also has some positive suggestions on the Visa issue ie to make the visa process easier for valid international students

i. Retain the post-study work visa

ii. The Government should produce additional statistics showing separately the number of students entering the country as well as permanent migration. This would be more transparent as any reduction in student numbers does not represent a reduction in permanent migration. This would then ensure that the pressure to curb immigration does not result in a clampdown on international students

iii. Ensure the application process for international students is as straightforward as possible

iv. Leave it to highly trusted institutions to decide on language requirements

v. Ensure that bogus institutions receive the strongest penalties.

It also suggests the formation of an all- party parliamentary group for education providers which could help bring a clearer focus on the policy front. What might also help is for education providers themselves to set up a sector specific group to identify issues of common concern and to help articulate industry concerns and seek action  in an area where we should have a competitive advantage but are under  increasing threat from competitors. What is clear is that the Government is not currently doing nearly  enough to support our education exporters across a broad range of services.  And it isn’t just about resources-what resources we have could be much better targeted.

Graham Able and Fraser White; WILD ReSEARCH; Education: A Great British Export? Feb 2011

Note Graham Able is a former Headmaster of Dulwich College and is Chief Executive of Alpha Plus. Fraser White is a Lawyer who funded  the report and is chief executive of Shanghai-based Dulwich College Management International (DCMI). DCMI runs a number of British-style schools in East Asia.

For copies of the report- contact Edward Wild




Useful guide for students to help choose the right qualifications for post 16 options


What you decide to study post-16 can have a major impact on what you can study at degree level. Whether or not you have an idea of the subject you want to study at university, having the right information now will give you more options when the time comes to make your mind up.  The Russell Group of Universities, with the help of the Institute of Career Guidance, has published a guide that  aims to help students make an informed decision when choosing their course for post-16 education.  The Group believes that it will be of use to parents and advisors too. This is an important document. It would surely help to have a similar one for pupils aged 13 and their parents and advisors as the wrong choice at that  crucial age can massively influence a child’s future options post 16 too and indeed whether they can apply for university courses.  It is the case that many pupils, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, are limited in their choices of HE courses because they have not taken appropriate GCSEs or vocational equivalents, often because they have had poor advice in school  or indeed no advice. One question put by the Guide is – Know what you want to study? – Check out the entry requirements  If you have a university course which you are keen on, have you checked  the relevant university website or UCAS course search to find out whether  this course requires certain subjects at advanced level? Pretty obvious, of course, but some pupils don’t even do this.  The preamble to the Guide says ‘ Getting your post-16 subject choices right is an important first step towards university but it won’t guarantee you a place on your chosen degree course. Entry to Russell Group universities, in particular, can be highly competitive and academic background, while vitally important, is only one of several things universities will take into account when they consider your application. They will also want to select students who are clearly well-motivated and passionate about their subject. In some cases, they may even ask you to gain some work experience in a relevant field. ‘

 Informed Choices; A Russell Group guide to making decisions about  post-16 education 2011