IB beats A-levels for university preparation

A new survey of 80 HE admissions officers has found the IB diploma programme is best preparation for workplace and university

The findings come in the tenth annual report, launched today by ACS International Schools, International Baccalaureate Organisation (IB) and International Baccalaureate Schools and Colleges Association (IBSCA).

The new research has highlighted that nearly a fifth (18%) of university admissions officers cite the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) as a better preparation to thrive at university, compared to just 8% who cite A-levels, and 3% Scottish Highers.  Around a half rate the qualifications equally in this respect.

The latest annual University Admissions Officers report, which explores university admissions officers’ views on the three main UK post -16 qualifications – A levels, IBDP and Scottish Highers –  also reveals the extent to which the three  qualifications prepare students for the world of work.

Skills best provided by the IBDP include workplace skills, cited by 57% of officers; self-management skills, 76%; an ability to cope with pressure, 72%, and an entrepreneurial or positive approach to risk taking, 23%.

By contrast, A-level study appears to be regarded as the least effective with just 3% citing A-levels as good for developing workplace skills; self-managements skills, 26%; an ability to cope with pressure, 56%; and developing an entrepreneurial or positive approach to risk taking, just 4%.

Commissioned by ACS International Schools in conjunction this year with the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IB) and International Baccalaureate Schools and Colleges Association (IBSCA), the survey is now in its tenth year.

Despite a decade of changes to the UK education system, university admission officers overall views of the three qualifications have remained constant.  Asked to assess each qualification across a range of qualities, A-levels remain slightly ahead of the IBDP and Scottish Highers for in-depth subject expertise, 81% compared to 79%  and 78% respectively, but compare poorly for encouraging independent inquiry – 87% for the IBDP compared to 37% for A-levels and 47% for Scottish Highers.

A quarter of admissions officers claim they look more favourably on applicants who have undertaken the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), with eight in ten considering the EPQ to be equal to the IBD’s Extended Essay.  The research suggests that around a fifth of university applicants now offer the EPQ qualification as part of their university application, a figure that rises to 43% amongst 1994 Group university applicants.

Commenting on the results, Jeremy Lewis, Head of School at ACS Egham said:“Over the past ten years of the survey we have seen the IBDP repeatedly outperform the other main qualifications: it appears to give students the best preparation for the workplace and higher education.  It is a challenging qualification  but the results speak for themselves in terms of student readiness and ability to thrive at university and beyond.”

Sandra Morton, Chief Executive, IBSCA, added: “There is clearly room for more than one qualification but others could learn a great deal from the IBDP. The EPQ, and its popularity with admission officers, is a case in point.”

The research was conducted through telephone interviews with 80 university admissions officers in the UK and 20 from the US from 16th March to 8th May 2015.

In the UK the sample covered around a third of all universities, 80 in total, including 12% Russell Group; 17% Million Plus Group; 16% 1994 Group; 8% Guild HE & Associates; 20% University Alliance.

 

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