A-level students who get three D grades should still be able to go to university, a minister insisted yesterday.
Chris Skidmore said it is not fair to bar them from degrees as they may have faced ‘disadvantages’, such as mental health problems, being brought up in care or living with domestic violence.
The higher education minister’s comments come after leaked details from a Government review into university funding last year suggested pupils gaining just three Ds or worse should be blocked from taking out student loans for a degree.
Instead they could be offered cheaper loans for vocational courses in further education colleges. But it prompted an outcry, and when the review was published last month the proposal had been mothballed.
During a speech at the annual conference of the Higher Education Policy Institute, a universities think-tank, Mr Skidmore said such young people must not be ‘blamed’ for their poor performance and instead supported to ‘flourish later on in life’.
He added: ‘There are groups in society who, through no fault of their own, may not achieve the qualifications at A-level.
‘I’ve seen so many examples of students who’ve flourished later on in life, and I wasn’t going to be the universities minister who was going to be able to defend putting a three-D cap in place.’
But his comments prompted a backlash from critics who said that accepting poor-performing students on to degree courses did them no favors.
Chris McGovern, of the Campaign For Real Education, said: ‘We don’t want pupils taking on debts when they are not well-suited to academic study.
‘Too many people leaving university are underemployed or unemployed.’