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A level choices - facilitating subjects again

(55 Posts)
Ireallydontseewhy Wed 17-Feb-16 10:01:50

Feel sure I must have missed a thread on this, as it is the right time of year, but.... Another dc coming up to A level choices, and we're wondering is the Russell Group booklet on 'facilitating subjects' - Informed Choices - still up to date? Seeming a bit more restrictive this time round, now that many dcs are going to be doing only 3 subjects rather than 4 in sixth form. If anyone knows if it is still considered up to date I would be most grateful! Still available on the internet so I assume it is (or I could e-mail the RG, but always nice to get mners views!)

noblegiraffe Wed 17-Feb-16 10:06:25

The RG would no doubt say that it's still valid but I would suggest its advice be taken with a pinch of salt.

However, if your DC has a definite idea of what they want to take at uni, e.g. Medicine, then certain choices are necessary.

janinlondon Wed 17-Feb-16 10:14:37

The LSE and Trinity Cambridge both publish actual lists of subjects that they consider to be acceptable or not acceptable. Whether these mean anything or not is obviously up for debate, but if in doubt.........

Ireallydontseewhy Wed 17-Feb-16 10:20:32

Thanks so much Noble, that's a very interesting link as well!
I totally agree you have to look out for not 'closing off' engineering, medicine and so on. But apart from that, there are things about the facilitating list I don't really understand - I would have thought as a 'test of ability to do a degree', economics and class civ A levels (to take two examples) would be just as reliable as, say, history or English. But then I am not an admissions tutor!

Ireallydontseewhy Wed 17-Feb-16 10:24:33

Thanks Jan yes I seem to remember those lists - and have a feeling each list is slightly different... Yes, you may well be right about 'if in doubt', and if you only 'need' to do two facilitating subjects there is still some scope for going off the track I suppose! Though less flexibility if you're choosing only three subjects nowadays (I know some are doing four! But don't think all schools are going to allow this.)

boys3 Wed 17-Feb-16 11:28:47

really interesting link noble

Also worth remembering that contrary to popular MN belief RGs are not the ultimate be all and end all. Taking the three guides (ST Sunday Times, CUG Complete University Guide and G Guardian) 40% of the top 20 overall are not RG, no doubt similar picture if individual degree subjects looked at.

fwiw OP DS1 did Class Civ at A level and is currently at the Uni at the top of all three of those tables.

cricketballs Wed 17-Feb-16 11:41:38

unfortunately boys3 it is not only MN that falls for the marketing of the RG group; Ofsted and 6th form providers have also fallen for it

disquit2 Wed 17-Feb-16 11:53:31

40% of the top 20 overall are not RG.

True, but a highly ranked non-RG university such as Bath will have very similar opinions on subjects to those expressed in the RG informed choices brochure.

I would also be very wary about taking Noble's link too seriously. Sure, you can get into many courses will less than ideal A level subjects, because even top universities need more students year on year to break even financially (fees fixed). But that doesn't mean to say that some A level choices aren't better preparations than others. So while e.g. you can get into many RG maths courses with Maths plus any 2 other subjects at AAB+ you will be in a much better position to do well on a Maths course if you have related subjects such as FM or physics as one of your A levels rather than e.g. law or drama.

Ireallydontseewhy Wed 17-Feb-16 11:59:27

Thanks boys and cricket! Well, I have noticed that the copy of Informed Choices on the internet is dated 2015/16, so that answers my question about whether it's the up to date position!

Totally agree with you about the desirability of non RG universities as well.

Next (related) question - if you have a dc who wants to do two 'unfacilitating' subjects, but also wants to play it safe on the Informed Choices front, would it be worth looking for somewhere that accommodates 4 A levels instead of 3? Though I think that could be a heavy workload...

Ireallydontseewhy Wed 17-Feb-16 12:06:57

Cross posted with you disquit! I wonder whether lifting the finance cap on numbers of students with ?ABB (I think that's right?) means that more universities are now 'recruiters' than used to be the case? Have numbers expanded a lot at the RG and other universities that offer AAA/AAB, for instance? If so, it may not matter as much what the subjects are - because the financial criterion for univ funding is the grades, not the A level subjects. (Subject to your point about maths, fm and phys, of course.)

boys3 Wed 17-Feb-16 12:08:30

True, but a highly ranked non-RG university such as Bath will have very similar opinions on subjects to those expressed in the RG informed choices brochure

no disagreement from me on that. Purely raised just to challenge the notion that the RG group is the be all and end all, when there are a number of non RG highly rated Unis. Its only a few years back when Durham, Exeter and York where not in the RG group either.

titchy Wed 17-Feb-16 12:39:57

Depends on the subjects chosen and the aim OP.

If the two non-facilitating are Media and PE, the two facilitating are French and Geography and the aim is History at Oxford then that's a no.

If on the other hand the two non-facilitating are Economics and RE, alongside just History, then even Oxford should be happy with those, assuming top grades of course.

boys3 Wed 17-Feb-16 12:45:18

just in case anyone was wondering and it is absolutely fine if you were not

from the 2016 tables, amalgamating placements from all three tables (a dodgy methodology if ever there was one) . Placements after Uni name are Sunday Times, CUG, and Guardian respectively. The Guardian does produce a few spectacular differences, but only a few.

Although anyone recently arrived from Planet 9 might assume places 1 to 24 would be RG uni's strangely this is not the case smile

1. Cambridge 1 / 1 / 1
2. Oxford 2 /2 / 2
3. St Andrews 4 / 5 / 3
4. Imperial 3 / 4 / 8
5. Durham 5 / 5 / 6
6. Warwick 6 / 7 / 6
7. Surrey 8 / 8 / 4
8. LSE 9 / 3 / 13
9. Exeter 7 / 10 / 9
10. Bath 12 / 11 / 5
11. Lancaster 11 / 9 / 10
12. UCL 10 / 13 / 12
13. Loughboro 13 / 11/ 11
14. Southampton 16 / 14 //14
15. Birmingham 17 / 18 / 17
16. York 15 / 17 / 22
17. UEA 18 / 16 / 20
18 Leeds 14 / 19 / 23
19. Sussex 19 / 21 / 19
20. Kent 23 / 22 / 16
21. Edinburgh 22 / 20 /20
22. Bristol 20 / 15 / 35 - The G's 35 does seem a bit harsh
23. Newcastle 23 / 26 / 29
24. Nottingham 25 / 25 / 28
25. Glasgow 26 / 30 / 24
26. Leicester 28 / 24 / 32
27. Manchester 28 / 28 / 29
28. KCL 27 / 23 / 36
29. Reading 32 / 29 /25
30. Sheffield 21 / 27 / 42 - again G at significant odds with the others
31. Cardiff 33 / 31 / 27
32. Heriot Watt 38 / 37 / 18 - G again significantly at odds
33. Aston 30 / 32 / 33
34 QMUL 34 / 33 / 38
35. Royal Holloway 36 / 34 / 40
36. Coventry 47 / 48 / 15 - G's biggest single difference
37. Queens Belfast 31 / 36 / 45
38. SOAS 44 / 43 / 26 - G again at odds
39. Essex 35 / 34 / 47
40. Strathclyde 46 / 38 / 33
41. Dundee 37 / 42 / 38
42. City 41 / 41 / 37
43. Aberdeen 45 / 40 / 41
44. Keele 42 / 46 / 42
45 Liverpool 38 / 39 / 59 - not a G favourite clearly

tillyho Wed 17-Feb-16 13:08:59

nice piece of work Boys3! now could you do that on a subject by subject basis.....wink

OurBlanche Wed 17-Feb-16 13:19:49

Forget all the headlines, all the advice, the flash harries offering books, secrets etc. If your DC know what kind of degree they want they can spend a day or so looking at the different related degrees and see precisely what associated GCSE and A levels each offering Uni do or do not look favourably on.

Bear in mind that schools still don't have up-to-date and expert advice on this, funding and resources simply no longer exist (not blaming schools, just bemoaning the stupidity of the system). Do your own specific research and then visit A level providers to discuss their provision.

You might find that an FE college will give you completely different advice to that you got at a VI form... I know I used to surprise parents with our advice, they often had never been told certain 'obvious' things. So do talk to a wide range of providers... you never know!

boys3 Wed 17-Feb-16 13:30:22

nice piece of work Boys3! now could you do that on a subject by subject basis.

grin and presumably to cover a number of years so that any trends can start to be identified. May as well get the specification absolutely right. Although as foundations go not 100% convinced by Uni league tables smile

OddBoots Wed 17-Feb-16 14:42:20

The 'Which!' guide to A Level choices is quite good if the student has an idea about what course they would like to study at University.


RhodaBull Wed 17-Feb-16 15:05:58

I keep seeing Bristol slumping down the charts.

Back in my day (80s) it was definitely no.3 after Oxbridge. What has caused its fall from grace? People my age I think are still "impressed" by Bristol and would assume it is still a "milk round" type of place.

Also, aside from the reputation issue, the problem with rating course over institution ignores the thorny issue of the calibre of students. I don't doubt that the UniversityofFoundedLastWeek may have a marvellous course in such and such, but it wouldn't feel right to encourage an A* type of student to go to an institution full of C and D-ers.

titchy Wed 17-Feb-16 15:21:35

If you include the now defunct 94 group, pretty much all the top 40 are either RG or 94.

Ireallydontseewhy Wed 17-Feb-16 15:33:10

Thanks all - very useful! I suppose if you want to do more than one non facilitating subject it may be worth looking at the IB - I wonder if that will become more popular now that 3 'A' levels is going to be the norm again (is it?). Have to admit I know nothing of that, but perhaps it is worth finding out!

Ireallydontseewhy Wed 17-Feb-16 16:31:43

I see Sheffield also has a list, and I just checked the LSE one - these are both wider than the Informed Choices one. I think it seems to be because the IC one is also concerned with not narrowing your options too early - so it's not just looking at whether a subject's regarded as a good test of ability, but whether you need a subject at a level to do the degree.
Still wondering whether 4 a levels would be very bad idea. Suspect it might be....

boys3 Wed 17-Feb-16 17:02:36

Can we ask how non-facilitating your DC's possible A level choices actually are op ?

Cambridge Subject Matters seems to include a fair number of options

Choosing subject combinations that genuinely keep your options open is trickier than you might think. We often encounter students who have chosen to take two arts and two science subjects at AS Level because they believe it will keep their options open. While such a subject combination does provide a suitable preparation for many arts and social science courses at the University it can make you a less competitive applicant for Cambridge’s broad-based science courses.

There are certain A Level subjects that are considered either essential or useful for a number of courses at Cambridge, therefore choosing one or more of these will help keep your higher education options open. These subjects include: Chemistry, English Literature, History, languages, Mathematics and Physics. Other subjects that also facilitate course choice at Cambridge include Further Mathematics and Biology.

If you want to keep your options open but you think you are likely to want to study an arts/social science or science-based course at university please read our further advice overleaf.

Are you inclined towards the arts or social sciences?

If you think you would like to study an arts or social sciences course at university but you are not sure which one, then English Literature†, History, languages and Mathematics are good ‘keystone’ subjects:choosing one or more of these will provide a good foundation for your subject combination

Other good choices to combine these subjects with include: an additional language, Ancient History,Classical Civilisation, Economics, Further Mathematics, Geography, Philosophy, Religious Studies and sciences Biology, Chemistry or Physics.

Other possible subject choices, for instance Archaeology, Citizenship, English Language, Environmental Science, Government and Politics, History of Art, Law, Music, Psychology or Sociology, are useful preparation for some of our arts and social sciences courses

OurBlanche Wed 17-Feb-16 17:05:17

And that is a prime example of why looking at what each individual Uni says, rather than relying on generalised guides.

bojorojo Wed 17-Feb-16 17:20:31

I think these lists depend on where the emphasis is put. Clearly Bristol graduates get lots of good jobs. Bristol is very much a "Milk Round" university.

I think they are also universities where students are not always impressed with the teaching. They may have high class academics, but teaching could be better. Employers do not really care about this unless it is a vocational course. Sheffield and Bristol would still be desirable for Engineering for example.

I think that employers do not always see lists in the same way that compilers of these lists do. So what may seem to be a good university according to the lists, may be less impressive to employers because their criteria are different and they focus in far more on the individual. I am not sure employers see Exeter as way better than Bristol or Edinburgh for example. Also, being honest, the degree is the gateway to a career and a job. Is an employer really going to rate Surrey over Manchester, Leeds or Nottingham? Or would they look at all the applicants from these universities equally if the qualities of the applicants met their needs? I think they would.

EvilTwins Wed 17-Feb-16 17:28:57

I think too much worry can go into this and DC can end up being disuaded from doing things they are passionate about. I teach and a couple of years ago our head girl got into Cardiff with English Lit, History, Business Studies and BTEC Performing Arts.

The same year a boy got into Coventry with similar subjects (inc the BTEC)

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