STEAM: BTECs aren’t what you think – they got us on the path to university

Monday, 4th July — By Frankie Lister-Fell

Nikolas Vasilev outside City and Islington Sixth Form College credit - Nikolas

Nikolas Vasilev

BTEC qualifications are often misconceived as lesser-than A-levels, with some schools encouraging teenagers to choose the latter to optimise “success”.

But two BTEC students disagree with the stigma, and have received offers from their first-choice universities through their engineering diplomas.

City and Islington College student Nikolas Vasilev said doing a BTEC allowed him to achieve “better grades” than if he had done A-levels. Nikolas was unsure what to study after completing his GCSEs, and considered doing A-levels in maths, physics and design. But after discussing his interests with his teacher, he embarked on a Level 3 Engineering Diploma, which he is due to finish next week.

“I’ve always loved Formula 1 and that’s what got me into engineering,” Nikolas said. “The course has allowed me to discover the basics of engineering. Our teachers had experiences in different fields, which allowed us to explore options.”

City and Islington students [City and Islington]

He especially liked the design side of the course, and he’s learnt a programming language, Proteus, as well as industry software – including AutoCAD and Multisim – which he wouldn’t have gained from sitting in an A-level maths class. Nikolas has an offer to study Motor Sport Engineering at Oxford Brookes.

On why there is a prejudice against BTECs, Nikolas said: “In a way A-levels are considered more difficult because they are exam-based. With BTECs you have assignments that you can improve on and resubmit them after two weeks. So you can end up higher grades and still go to the same university as someone who did A-levels. But it depends on what type of person you are.”

Ali Girgin, who is studying the same qualification at City and Islington College, said “there is always this perception that BTECs aren’t good”.

“I got good grades in my GCSEs. I got an eight in maths, which is equivalent to an A*. I chose to do a BTEC because it had a focus on engineering and it’s a very good course,” he said.

“If you’re doing A-levels people think it’s harder, so they immediately assume you’re smarter. But I’m going to be end up at the same uni as someone who has spent two years stressing over exams.”

Ali said the diploma has made him more confident.

He has an offer to study Civil Engineering at City, University of London, which is just down the road from his college.

He hopes to become a civil engineer after he graduates.

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