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Facilitating subjects - your views/experiences

(77 Posts)
MoorPeople Mon 26-Sep-16 18:48:42


DD (year 11) is currently looking at A level options. She can do 3 (4 not allowed for anyone); there is no option of IB within reasonable distance. She is currently favouring Economics, Philosophy and Psychology. Her school say this would be fine, but I am worried about the lack of any facilitating subjects.

Are facilitating subjects important, or is it just the Russell Group trying to make it a 'thing'. Would the options DD is looking at be considered strong enough subjects to take her further without say English or History? She doesn't know what she wants to do degree-wise just yet, possibly looking at some major/minor/tripart kind of degree as she finds it hard to pin down to one subject! She is currently predicted mainly As with some A* at GCSE. She might get the odd B if she doesn't put the work in!

Ta for your views.

SueDunome Mon 26-Sep-16 19:07:07

I'd suggest you check the university requirements for each of her three A level study subjects as that may be a good starting point. For example, ds has just started university studying psychology. For that, most unis require two from maths, biology, chemistry, psychology but also favour essay subjects.

MoorPeople Mon 26-Sep-16 20:08:50

Thanks Sue. From a relatively quick check, most of her choices just require a B at GCSE Maths and English. Because the kind of subjects DD is looking at - PPE as just one example - not all schools/colleges offer say economics or philosophy at A level, so they aren't specifically required for the degree. Same for the psychology degrees she has looked into (and she is careful to make sure they are BPS accredited ones). They were only asking for GSCE level maths, and not psychology at A level.

Hence my confusion as to how important facilitating subjects really are confused.

AppleMagic Mon 26-Sep-16 20:16:49

I would strongly encourage her to do ALevel Maths instead of Economics if she wants to do economics at degree level (even PPE).

titchy Mon 26-Sep-16 20:21:14

I'd advise another science (could be Maths) for Psychology and Maths for Economics.

So ditch Philosophy for Maths would be my advice.

BasiliskStare Tue 27-Sep-16 01:13:46

Anecdotal, but backs up pps , the friends of Ds who went on to do PPE did Maths A level, and by and large History, sometimes English . Another popular course was Theology and Philosophy ( depends on the board , sometimes called Philosophy and Ethics or indeed other names - it's basically RE ) Others who know better about the course will give better advice.

GardenGeek Tue 27-Sep-16 01:18:35

You need to check uni requirements carefully.

I didn't until UCAS in 2nd year of sixth form; and had to end up taking on additional AS level Maths to ensure I would be considered.

Bobochic Tue 27-Sep-16 11:10:11

If she wants to do a social science subject at university, she should do maths A-level and one essay based A-level in order to keep her options open.

senua Tue 27-Sep-16 12:16:17

Are facilitating subjects important, or is it just the Russell Group trying to make it a 'thing'.

That's a bit unfair (I think. Unless I've been taken in by the hype.grin) As I understand it, facilitating subjects (FS) are defined as the subjects that are most commonly put as course requirements. So if you do FS then you leave more options open. Simple as.

Ideally, she needs to decide which degree she is going to read and work backwards from there, but that's easier said than done.

AppleMagic Tue 27-Sep-16 14:51:11

It's also helpful to think about what subjects will best prepare her to succeed once she's on the degree course and maths a level will make a huge difference with coping with economics (and probably psychology and the logic component of philosophy too).

bojorojo Wed 28-Sep-16 00:14:46

Your A level choices do not have to mirror the degree subject. In fact for PPE, this is rarely the case. Maths and History would be good. Also
good for Economics. Have a look at individual courses at university and see what they ask for. Lots of schools do not offer psychology or philosophy A level so plenty of students gain access to these courses with other A levels. Maths is a good start for all these degrees and pretty much essential for lots of economics courses. I am not sure where PPE is taught apart from Oxford but you could look at joint honours elsewhere and see what can be studied. I would swap the Philosophy for Maths and if you can do some more research into possible degrees, History may be better than Psychology. Maths and History keep more doors open than Philosophy and Psychology.

Needmoresleep Wed 28-Sep-16 07:52:12

Another for maths.

I met one DC who found his teenage strop about taking maths A level was having a major impact on his chances of getting onto a competitive psycology course. His mother did her best to tone down the "I told you so".

LSE's PPE course requires A* in Maths, but no other subjects specified.

bigTillyMint Wed 28-Sep-16 08:02:31

DD did Eco for AS - she found that there were some uni's offering Eco BA degrees (wanting an A in Maths at GCSE, I think) and some offering Eco BSc's needing Maths A'level, so your DD needs to find out what she might need for the courses she is considering.

nat73 Wed 28-Sep-16 08:07:06

I would not recommend the ology's at A level especially if she is bright. As said already check the university requirements. My neighbour is a 2ndry school teacher and she always recommends maths or a level english.
Tbh if I saw economics, philosophy and psychology as someone's A levels I would assume they were not very bright. It sounds like this is not the case for your daughter...

Ciutadella Wed 28-Sep-16 08:14:56

nat73 would that be true of the philosophy as well (that you would assume they were not bright)? I've been told that it's looked on very favourably by universities, even though it's not a specific course requirement for any degree - regarded as a 'proper' challenging subject.

Op, if your dd is very keen to do these 3, are there any other schools locally where starting 4 is an option? Not that that is necessarily the answer - 4 As is a lot! so she would probably want to drop one after a year, but it keeps the options open for longer. I think the '3 only, no exceptions' policy is now proving problematic for some dteens who don't want to limit their options so early. For others, 3 is fine, so there are winners and losers from the changes.

stonecircle Wed 28-Sep-16 08:23:39

Tbh if I saw economics, philosophy and psychology as someone's A levels I would assume they were not very bright.

That's quite an assumption and not one I would make.

If your daughter has no idea what she needs to do at uni then it might be better to leave some doors open by swapping at least one of her 3 for a facilitating subject. Many students find maths A level very difficult so I'd be careful unless she is really good at it. Maths might be a very useful subject but a high grade in philosophy say might be better than a low grade in maths.

Irush Wed 28-Sep-16 08:33:11

Dd is doing philosophy and ethics A level (religious studies) and I am pretty sure it is a facilitating subject?

titchy Wed 28-Sep-16 09:15:55

Philosophy and ethics is NOT a facilitating course.

Avoid '...ology' subjects? Really? So avoid Biology then?

senua Wed 28-Sep-16 09:35:14

Philosophy / RE / RS is a respected subject but it is not a facilitating subject - it's not even required for RE degrees!

PurpleDaisies Wed 28-Sep-16 09:41:21

My neighbour is a secondary school teacher and she always recommends maths or a level english.

I'm guessing she's not a maths teacher. I would be very wary of taking maths A level unless she's absolutely nailed on for an A/A* without having had any extra help from a tutor. Maths A level is a massive jump from GCSE and many students really struggle (even those who've done very well before).

Ciutadella Wed 28-Sep-16 09:43:17

Is there a distinction that some subjects are facilitating - ie you need them to do various degrees - and some are not facilitating but are 'suitable/preferred/insert title' which means they are regarded as being as intellectually challenging as the facilitating subjects, but are never a course requirement. And some are in a third category - very useful but not considered 'traditional intellectual subjects' eg Photography, PE.

So eg class civ is a 'suitable' subject but not a course requirement for Ancient History; govt and politics is 'suitable' but not a course requirement for Politics. Both are essay based and considered on a par with eg History in terms of difficulty. That is how I've come to understand it, but I am not an expert!
If we find it difficult, much harder it must be for dteens to make the right choices!

senua Wed 28-Sep-16 09:54:06

Ciutadella the Russell Group FS list can be compared with the Trinity College list to produce the three groups you have described.

Needmoresleep Wed 28-Sep-16 09:55:52

Ciutadella, and its all changing. For example Universities seem far more enthusiastic about the new economics A level syllabus, than they were the old, and I think the same applies to A level Computer Science.

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 28-Sep-16 09:56:34

As everyone says, look at requirements for things she thinks she might be interested in. There are only a small number of facilitating subjects, but in various combinations they keep plenty of options open. Doing three more specialised subjects narrows her future options I think.

With that combination, I wouldn't be thinking she wasn't bright, but I would be thinking that she wasn't aiming at the highest levels for university. However, there are LOADS (of non-MN children, obviously! grin ) who do similar combination of A levels and are very happy at mid-level universities. Shit, that sounds so snobby, I don't mean to be, and I do apologise - the great thing about our tertiary education in this country is that it serves a very wide range of abilities and aptitudes.

Anyway. A more useful (imo) classification of A level subjects can be found at

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 28-Sep-16 09:58:00

Cross-posted of course smile

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