There were a record number of sixth-form students carrying out dissertation-style projects over the last school year, it is thought, in attempts to boost their profile during university applications.
An estimated 35,000 students are believed to have completed an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), according to Professor Alan Smithers, an education expert.
An EPQ represents half an A-level, and is taken in addition to A-levels, if the student opts to take it. This helps universities tell talented sixth-formers apart, in circumstances where they are otherwise equally talented, such as having identical grades.
The qualification is rising in popularity, as students recognise the importance of having their university application stand out, with the number of pupils taking it more than doubling from five years ago.
In 2010, there were 15,958 students taking the qualification, but in the last year, there were 33,245 students taking it, an increase of 108 per cent. These figures were supplied by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), who will publish the figures for this year soon, with an expected rise of 2,000 compared to last summer.
“They are liked by universities and can help to strengthen a candidate’s application,” said Malcolm Trobe, of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
“They are phenomenally valuable in giving young people the opportunity to prepare themselves for university where they will spend much of their time studying and learning through their own research and reading.”
An EPQ involves a pupil choosing their own topic, planing it out, researching the topic’s issue, and presenting their findings. This is usually in the form of a written report, but can also be a sport or fashion event.