07/01/2013 10:48 GMT | Updated 08/01/2013 03:10 GMT

Welsh Universities Admits Students With Two E Grades, Provoking 'Dumbing Down' Debate

Updated: 7 January 2012 - statement from Aberystwyth University

Universities in Wales are at the centre of a "dumbing down" row as it was revealed students have been accepted onto courses with just two 'E' grades.

Aberystwyth University, Swansea Metropolitan and the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, have all admitted students holding 80 UCAS tariff points, which is the equivalent to two A-level passes at grade E or higher, according to data obtained by WalesOnline.

Shadow education minister Angela Burns told the Welsh website the news made a "mockery" of entry requirements.

"To contend with the pressures of sustaining a three or four-year university course, a student should be able to demonstrate that a certain level of attainment has been reached, evidenced by A-level grades.

"It does seem unfair that a student could leave school with almost no A-levels at all and still gain a place at a Welsh university. This sends out a message that elements of the Welsh higher education sector have bargain-basement entry requirements, are dumbing down and don’t appreciate the value of academic rigour."

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According to the Freedom of Information request, Aberystwyth lowered entry requirements on biology, law and history courses while Swansea Met offered places for students with 80 points on every course bar educational studies.

Universities across the UK have struggled to recruit students due to the rise in tuition fees. Last week UCAS revealed university applications had dropped for a second year in a row.

A spokesman for Swansea Metropolitan University said: "Some exceptional students with the minimum points score were accepted during Clearing but the vast majority of students enrolled in September 2012 were accepted with average tariff points of between 160 and 200 for a degree and 80 points for a Higher National Diploma.

"Currently we are asking between 160 and 240 points for entry in 2013."

Aberystwyth University said the FOI response was given when the full data was not known but was now able to provide "a fuller and more accurate picture".

In a statement, the University said: "The average UCAS points achieved by students accepted to study at Aberystwyth University in September 2012 was 281. This is the equivalent of B, B and C grades at A level.

"Only three individuals under 21 were admitted onto courses with 80 or fewer UCAS points. These three individuals are studying on the four year scheme in Life Sciences which features a foundation year and has been developed specifically for the purpose of widening access."

The statement added the UCAS tariff does not cover all qualifications and as such does not provide an accurate picture of the diversity of the university's students.

The University of Wales has been contacted for comment but has yet to reply while a spokesperson for the Welsh government said it would not be commenting on the issue.