Looking forward to university: a gateway to the world

ACS Cobham graduating class of 2018 during hat toss

With university admissions officers increasingly looking out for students with a particular set of skills, Fergus Rose, Advancement Director at ACS International Schools, delves into the argument that the IB Diploma better prepares students for university and the world beyond. 

I gave a presentation last week with the Director of Admissions from Kings College London, at the Festival of Education. The subject of our presentation was 'What university admissions officers want'  – giving tips and advice on how to secure the best university place for students.

Half of the leavers from ACS International Schools go to university in the UK, around a third to university in America and others to universities across the globe. This gives us a rare, deep knowledge of how to apply successfully to universities around the world.

What was the key message that came from us both? That the IB is the ideal qualification to help you prepare for and thrive at university.

Good exam results are required to secure a place at university. But over and above these, an International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) gives an edge. Why?

Because it is the sign of an independent, inquiring mind which Universities prize above all other attributes. Universities also want students who have good self-management skills and can marshal and communicate ideas, characteristics all very much associated with the IB.

Four years ago, Kings College London changed its admissions criteria to make the university equitable for IB Diploma students. Previously the tariff expectation had been too high for the IB Diploma, having been pegged to A levels, a qualification which had seen significant grade inflation over the preceding years.

This change was carried out to reflect the fact that the IB Diploma had not experienced grade inflation, and that the qualification produced students that the university wanted to attract. The university is delighted with the results, and now almost 18 per cent of all students at Kings College London have the IB Diploma.

I presented some facts drawn from ACS’s survey among all UK university admissions officers conducted last year, which highlight why an IB Diploma is so widely admired:

  • 80% of university admissions officer think different post-16 exam systems (over and above individual teachers or schools) develop different attitudes towards learning and work among their students.
  • 89% think that not being able to think and learn independently affects students’ ability to thrive at university
  • 100% of university admissions officers think the IB Diploma prepares students well to thrive at university. No other exam systems achieves this score.

Responding to questions from the audience after we had finished our presentations, the role of admission officers was re-framed “not as gate keepers to university, but as gate welcomers.”   

As our session came to an end, these words underlined for me what a wonderful ‘welcome to the world’ an IB education can provide – helping students develop the skills to thrive not just at university in the UK, but anywhere in the world.

About the author:  Fergus Rose is the Advancement Director at ACS International Schools. Joining ACS in 2004, Fergus is passionate about lifelong learning and providing young people with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century global economy. He is a regular contributor to the media, where his views are widely published. Fergus graduated from the University of London, is a member of the Marketing Society and a tutor at the Leadership Trust.