Commons queries over Hebrew A-level

An MP has raised questions in parliament after an Israeli-born pupil from a Jewish school was denied a university place this year because the university would not recognise her modern Hebrew A-level.

Westminster University said it could not accept her A-level A-grade in Ivrit. The unidentified student was told: "Even if you have lived in the UK since the age of three, Hebrew is the language you will have used most of or a lot of the time at home, as it is your mother's first language."

She was told this would have given her an advantage over students who had "selected a language A-level as a second language without any assistance from home".

But Hendon MP Andrew Dismore is now pressing the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills to look into modern language qualifications for universities.

A spokesman for Westminster University said it would "not be appropriate" to comment on individual cases. "However, it would be a cause of great regret to us if our admissions process caused undue distress to any applicant," he said. "We are currently reviewing the particular circumstances of this application, and will take any necessary action to alter our procedures in the coming months."

Only last month, two bodies which advise universities sent a general circular advising institutions to take legal advice if their entry policies excluded certain qualifications because of an applicant's native language.
"The rationale for this policy appears to be that a language qualification may be less demanding for a native language speaker than for a non-native speaker and consequently institutions attach less importance to that qualification," advised the Equality Challenge Unit and Supporting Professionalism in Applications.

However, they warned that there was a risk that such policies "may unlawfully discriminate on the grounds of race against those regarded as possessing the native language qualifications".

    Last updated: 12:32pm, November 13 2008

    COMMENTS

    Mark

    Thu, 11/20/2008 - 23:48

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    Yeah, sounds like the admissions staff aren't as bright as the student they rejected. The logical conclusion of their policy? Any student who grew up in a home where one of the parents was a doctor, for example, wouldn't be allowed to count a biology A-level, or where one was a professional musician couldn't count an A-level in music studies, or the parents loved books so couldn't count a literature A-level. In fact, anything the parents did to nurture the child would disqualify that child. Or if one or both parents were teachers - don't even think about it!