The response to the pandemic has forced examination boards to put in place alternative assessments for A-level and other qualifications in the UK and overseas. The methods used have raised concerns about fairness and consistency, particularly with respect to the most disadvantaged candidates. Brasenose shares these concerns due to the fact that our offer holders included a significant proportion of high achieving students attending lower performing schools - the group most at risk from being adversely affected by the methods used for A-levels. We were reassured, therefore, to find that there were fewer than half the number of missed A-level offers we would expect in a normal year, notwithstanding the diversity of our offer holders.
Nevertheless, we reviewed all misses individually and in the great majority of cases confirmed places. The reviews took into account interview and test scores plus relevant contextual information. All decisions were confirmed with the academic departments and made jointly with them. We also admitted some students from other colleges to help them maximise the number of possible reprieves across the University. As a consequence, our first year intake is 9% above normal but social distancing measures will ensure that the College remains a safe space to live and work in. Among UK students joining the College in 2020, 79% applied from state schools, 17% applied from independents, and 4% from other institutions. Other access measures indicate that the first years are from a wide range of backgrounds.
Addendum, Wednesday 19th August 2020:
On Monday 17th August, the Government announced a change in policy, and decided that A level grades could be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessed Grades (ie the grades awarded by teachers). Because of the offers already made by Brasenose, including the careful consideration of a range factors beyond the grades that were initially awarded, the change in policy will only have an impact on a very small number of new students at Brasenose. Even so, it may be necessary for some students who have now achieved their grades to defer to 2021 in some courses that are already full. The precise position is not yet clear.