Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Arts Council hails end to top universities' list of 'elite' A-levels

Welcome: Deborah Annetts
Welcome: Deborah Annetts

By Nina Massey

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has welcomed a decision by the elite Russell Group of universities to scrap a list of preferred A-level subjects which did not recognise the arts.

The 24-strong Russell Group - which includes Queen's University Belfast - will no longer list the subjects thought to open the most doors to universities.

The move comes after criticism that the A-level suggestions were the only subjects top institutions would consider.

The Arts Council said it welcomed the move.

"At a time when young people are making choices about their futures, we want to encourage them to see the arts and creative industries as an attractive career option," it said.

"The arts and our artists feed the creative industries pipeline here and are a major employer in Northern Ireland."

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said the Russell Group list has had a very negative effect on the study of music and creative subjects at A-level.

She said that the Russell Group will replace its guidance, which was first published eight years ago, with a new website that hopes to offer more personalised advice to students in a bid to widen access.

"I welcome the Russell Group's decision to scrap the list of facilitating subjects, which we know first-hand from music departments has had a devastating effect on the uptake of creative subjects at A-level.

"This is particularly the case within A-level music, which, according to research by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and shown by the APPG for Music Education's State of the Nation report, is the fastest disappearing subject in schools," she said yesterday.

On its website, the Russell Group itself said: "We have sometimes heard other people suggest that facilitating subjects are the only subjects pupils should consider to get into a Russell Group university, or that you must take them for any degree.

"This has never been the case," the organisation said.

It said the list was meant to be useful for pupils who were not sure what to study at university.

The facilitating subjects listed included maths, physics and biology.

Russell Group chief executive Dr Tim Bradshaw said: "Despite being hugely important for getting into university, subject choice is often overlooked.

"We want all pupils and their parents to have clear information at their fingertips, which the new Informed Choices website provides."

Jacqui O'Hanlon, chairwoman of the Cultural Learning Alliance and the Royal Shakespeare Company's director of education, also welcomed the decision to do away with the A-levels list.

"Scrapping the old facilitating subjects list and providing comprehensive, nuanced and interactive guidance is a clear message to students, parents and schools: studying the arts can offer a route to a wide range of different careers and fields of study," she said.

Queen's University was contacted for comment but had not responded by time of going to press.

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