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The Russell Group has published a list of "facilitating (preferred)" subjects

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    Good
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    I've had a quick read through the booklet and I think it'll be really useful for school leavers! However, it'll only really help the students who are already clued up about university...
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    (Original post by chlobofro)
    Funny how they call them "hard" or "soft" subjects.
    So? Hard/Soft doesn't mean Hard/Easy

    It defines hard in the book as subjects being "more theoretical" while soft subject as those with a "vocational or practical bias"

    It makes no mention on how hard or easy a subject is, its definition (in the cotnext of this booklet, at least) is based purely on the content and the usefulness of the subject in preparing for a degree at an RG uni
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    (Original post by Einheri)
    I agree. I'm a pretty good artist but got a D at AS in Art. It's insanely hard.
    All of the artists with genuine technical skill that I knew recieved very little credit in A-level art. They seemed to prefer really abstract crap with hidden meaning like randomly splattering paint on a piece of paper.
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    It's all well putting it on the internet, but they should send representatives to state schools because so many people at my school are clueless that they rule out most good universities by taking BTECs and soft a-levels. Particularly at 11-16 schools where hey don't have to deal with entry to universities and try to get good statistics.
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    It seems quite sensible to publish their views rather than act on them in secret when deciding admissions.
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    Students are so pretentious. Who cares about justifying your subjects to other students?
    Also, it was never once said in the articles that art or business or whatever was easy. It said that basically they are niche subjects that lead on to degrees in that area. The 'facilitating' subjects just give you more room to change your mind.
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    (Original post by LauriC)
    I don't see what's wrong with it. People create art like that to make a statement about art. Obviously you don't hang it on your wall. I wouldn't. But there is more to art than pretty pictures - it's expression and the artist obviously intented this to be thought provoking about the very nature of art itself. They succeded so surely this is good art? The point of it is to make a point. You don't have to like, you just to appreciate it before you completly dismiss it as "ludicrous".
    Abstract art. It's so good that it needs arguments and dissertations and essays written about it telling everyone that hasn't got an art qualification just how good it is.

    You could say that about John Cage 4'33, makes you think, but it's still silence.

    People that do art/music think it should be worth way more than the general public is prepared to pay....
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    There weren't any classic languages on offer at my old school - bet they only made the list cos oxbridge started stamping it's feet and flouncing.

    You'd think it'd be common sense but people can get some rubbish advice from teachers and/or parents.
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    From the report (for those who couldn't be bothered to read it, but felt the need to express their indignation at what was or wasn't in the report nonetheless):

    --Bold is mine--

    "There are many rumours about subjects being regarded as 'hard' or 'soft' and different people will have differing opinions on the matter.

    In general, subjects referred to as being 'hard' are more traditional and theoretical subjects, for example: English, History, Physics and Chemistry. In fact, all the 'facilitating subjects' listed earlier can be considered 'hard' with the addition of others such as Economics and Politics.

    'Soft' subjects are usually subjects with a vocational or practical bias, for example: Media Studies, Art and Design, Photography and Business Studies. However, there are no set definition of a 'hard' and 'soft' subject.

    Generally speaking, students who take one 'soft' subject as part of a wider portfolio of subjects do not experience any problems applying to a Russell Group university.

    ATTENTION!! If you plan to take more than one perceived 'soft' subject, some caution may be needed."



    Facilitating subjects list:
    Mathematics and Further Maths
    English
    Physics
    Biology
    Chemistry
    Geography
    History
    Languages


    I think the key point is that this is not about what is difficult and what is easy. 'Hard' subjects (in the general definition given and through the examples) are generally those viewed as requiring an 'academic' study mode, i.e. 'theoretical' and/or 'traditional'. Soft subjects appear to be those which, using the language of the report, are slightly less 'theoretical' and are less of an 'academic' and more of an 'applied, rather than conceptual' nature.

    I think the idea is that if you get high grades in 'theoretical' subjects you demonstrate the capacity for the study mode which is expected at the university level for most subjects. That is not a judgement on the relative difficulty or effort required for specific A Level subjects, simply a reflection of the specific capacities that universities, and specifically the Russell Group, are looking for. They don't value the fact that you got an A* in Chemistry less because you found it easier than you would have found Art, just like they don't value an A* in Art more because you found it harder than you would have found Physics. Where they value one more than the other, it is because they view it as demonstrating or developing a specific capacity that they are looking for.
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    (Original post by Peter30)
    Chemistry A level isn't GCSE. Have fun drawing things.
    I'm not stupid - I know how big a step it is, personally I think I will find Chemistry easier relative to Art - but then again my dad's a Chemistry lecturer at uni. I've been told all about Chemistry since I was little, I've been to his lectures, I've completed some of his papers he gives out to students... if I can understand degree level, I think I'm going to find A-level okay. Not easy, by no means. But I don't think the jump will be as big for me even though I know most people rank it as the hardest, above Maths and Physics. I'm just saying effort-wise, I'm going to have to devote a lot more of time to Fine Art than I will with Chemistry. Hence, it's going to me more stressful and difficult.

    Not that I'm going against your initial judgement; GCSE is easy. Tedium takes over when you have to have a lesson on calculating moles 3 times...

    I've looked at the A-level textbooks and have breathed a sigh of relief Real Chemistry at last!
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    (Original post by F1 fanatic)
    I think with the slightly sensationalist title it is easy for this to be misread or misunderstood. There is nothing that I see here, having read the guide, that is new and there are no changes to entry requirements. It also says nowhere that "soft" subjects are easier or that "hard" subjects are better. The use of the phrase facilitating subjects is very important, it's not that the leaflet says that these subjects are better, it is saying that these are the subjects which keep the widest range of options open. The intention, which is an entirely positive thing imo, is to fully inform individuals about the impact of their choices at GCSE and A-level (or equivalent). It is intended for those who have not yet picked their A-levels. If an applicant knows that they wish to study a particular subject at university or go into a particular career and know the requirements of that course then that is fine and there is nothing wrong with doing "soft" subjects to achieve that if they are accepted. What it is trying to avoid is for an individual to make choices without realising that they have inadvertently narrowed their options for future studies and careers and are no longer able to pursue the career path that they intended.
    I think the reference to facilitating subjects is novel. I think hitherto A levels have always been divided into sheep and goats, irrespective of whether a particular subject is considered a sheep or a goat. Now in the minds of the Russell Group and (unless one of the other university groups comes out with a different list) generally there is a threefold division, into:

    (a) facilitating "hard" subjects
    (b) other hard subjects
    (c) "soft" subjects

    What we are yet to see is the impact this will have on schools. Most VIth forms are probably not running enough groups in the facilitating subjects to justify the level of demand that this report would suggest and is likely to prompt.

    If we assume most VIth forms offer two A level languages, then many people who don't want a maths heavy subject are going to be trying to choose 2 A levels from English, history, two languages and possibly (but there is a numerical component) geography. I am not sure most VIth forms have the resources to handle that.

    I am not sure that if before yesterday, someone suggested they wanted to do maths, economics and media studies, anyone would have tried to talk them out of it. Before yesterday, that combination would have passed any published grey list or black list. Indeed it might have looked "harder" than maths, geography and media studies.

    This publication is going to push up entry requirements. Those universities which were less prescriptive about subject choice were able to pick up good candidates with unwise A level choices. There are going to be fewer of those people.

    Whilst some of the selling of non-preferred qualifications has been by school management to boost league table results, a lot will have been done by subject teachers recruiting for their subject. If you are a media studies teacher today what do you say to potential VIth form students and their parents?


    There some interesting subject comments. For example the "traditional" medicine 3 A levels-maths, physics and chemistry seems no longer to be as favoured. If you went round a group of 40 something doctors you would hardly find a biology A level amongst them
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    (Original post by Lily Academia)
    I'm not stupid - I know how big a step it is, personally I think I will find Chemistry easier relative to Art - but then again my dad's a Chemistry lecturer at uni. I've been told all about Chemistry since I was little, I've been to his lectures, I've completed some of his papers he gives out to students... if I can understand degree level, I think I'm going to find A-level okay. Not easy, by no means. But I don't think the jump will be as big for me even though I know most people rank it as the hardest, above Maths and Physics. I'm just saying effort-wise, I'm going to have to devote a lot more of time to Fine Art than I will with Chemistry. Hence, it's going to me more stressful and difficult.

    Not that I'm going against your initial judgement; GCSE is easy. Tedium takes over when you have to have a lesson on calculating moles 3 times...

    I've looked at the A-level textbooks and have breathed a sigh of relief Real Chemistry at last!
    Well all I can say after that comment is I wish you good luck. To be honest as long as you can get through the first term in any subject with good grades then you're going go be fine. When I started A Level I was ignorant of how hard it was going to be and bombed out. Ever since then I was playing catch-up and never get the most out of my potential. Having a Dad as a Chemistry lecturer is definitely going to help though
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    I think this report created by the Russel group is very helpful. I was very misguided and confused about my A level choices, that by the time I came to applying for universities a few of the prestigoius universities such as LSE and Oxford I was unable to apply to them due to the fact that I hadn't taken certain A level's. In my case this was Math. Careers at Secondary school just pushed tudents to take the easy way out and to just get by which I think is very wrong. Everyone has the ability to achieve if given the option to unless proven otherwise. Overall this should be printed out and given to year 7 students, so they have the oppourtunity to maximise their chanes by the time they get to year 13.
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    (Original post by kerily)
    I agree that art is an insanely difficult qualification - it took over my entire life at GCSE (although I did compound this problem by taking graphics as well :cool:) and the sheer quantity of things you have to do is amazing.

    The problem is, however, that it's not relevant to other things you might want to do - but schools tell you this doesn't matter. We were actively advised to take a 'contrasting' subject to show 'breadth of abilities', when for maths at least they only actually care about how good you are at maths. An intelligent student may well think 'I'd better drop art to concentrate on maths' and then be told that if they don't counter-intuitively continue with art, they're endangering their place - ****ty advice, but the sort of thing that schools like to say, and so the reason why guides like this are required.
    This! I went to art club, did loads of work at home, spent ages developing my work in different mediums... still only got a C! I'm not even a BAD artist! I wasn't as amazing as some but I wasn't ****. I spent more time on art than I did on any of my other GCSE subjects. I respect anyone who does art because it's really not easy.

    I'm glad the Russell Group has published this, better they state their positions on certain subject for all to see than do it as they're gving out places. If people don't know this information, they can't choose their options accordingly. I don't think the people who need to see it will see it though. My secondary school (also my current sixth form) didn't even give careers advice!

    It's hardly surprising or ground-breaking though is it? Maths and Physics are facilitating subjects if you want to do Physics at uni and Media Studies isn't. Most people who choose academic subjects to study at uni know the subjects they should choose for A levels in the first place! Guidance at what optional subjects you should take at GCSE level would also be good. I didn't know a GCSE in a language was preferred at some unis until I started researching. The only reason I took one is because my sister told me it would be helpful. I also didn't know Media Studies was seen as pointless. (I'm not getting into a debate/discussion about whether it is or not!). I often wish someone had told me not to pick the subjects I did as although it doesn't matter that much for university applications, I would have got better grades if I'd chosen History over Art or Geography over Classics. At the age of 16, you (or at least I) tend to go for things that are fun or look good, over things that might actually get you decent grades.

    I'd be interested to see what they say about Religious Studies. I couldn't open the full report.
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    id just like to make a point I got into a Russel Group uni taking Media Studies Psychology and ICT.........
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    I've got 3 offers from Russell Group subjects (and Durham) and I don't do any of these subjects.
    However, I did apply to do Business so that may speak volumes about me :P
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    (Original post by Sammydemon)
    All of the artists with genuine technical skill that I knew recieved very little credit in A-level art. They seemed to prefer really abstract crap with hidden meaning like randomly splattering paint on a piece of paper.
    Funnily enough the only person in my class who got an A had basically just copied Jackson Boll0cks for one of her projects, haha.
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    (Original post by W.H.T)
    :lolwut: wheres economics?
    I'm sure Economics is interesting, but it is not useful for that many degree courses. Even if you study Economics at university, they will teach you the content again anyway, so the A-Level is not required. Maths or History would probably be more useful, especially if you are not sure yet what you want to study at degree level.


    On a sidenote, I really don't get this British infatuation with Economics. I think in my country it is considered a "soft" subject at school/college level... only technical/vocational 6th form colleges offer it; grammar schools don't.
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    I feel that a few people in this conversation are being really quite patronising. I'm a student in year 12, and I would not consider myself to be 'disadvantaged' in the context that many people seem to be using it. I am taking four A Levels: English Literature, History, French and World Development, the latter of which I expect would be classed as a 'soft' subject. My reasoning for choosing World Development isn't because I think it's an easy subject, it's simply because it interests me. It frustrates me that people assume that you can judge a person and their motivation on one subject they have chosen. People making remarks such as 'the people who need telling probably won't read this' is extremely irritating as I didn't expect that I would be rejected from going to a university of my choice, simply because of one subject that the university 'disapproves of'. No one gave me any advice on this matter while I was choosing my subjects. I do go to a State school, which I am extremely proud of; I despise the whole idea of private education and the advantages it gives the wealthy over everyone else. Perhaps more guidance does need to be given to students before they choose their A Levels, as I'm sure it would make a difference to many of them, but frankly, I think that the Russell Group should be doing more to reach bright students across the board, rather than excluding more. Rant over for now, but I felt I had to get it off my chest.

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Updated: February 17, 2011
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