With the ongoing weakening in standards and concerns that schools are teaching to the test the A-levels are becoming less and less useful for universities trying to assess students for entry to university. Oxford and Cambridge universities are responding by setting up their own tests. The Telegraph describes a range of new tests that are being introduced and new exams (such as the Advanced Extension Awards) that are being recommended in an attempt to provide some replacement for A-level grades as a standard that universities can use to tell students apart.
This looks like a private solution to the problem of exams responding to the needs of politicians, for yearly 'good news', instead of the needs of universities and business, which are interested in more rigorous tests. The government has set out plans to improve the situation by replacing the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) but it appears likely that any resulting improvement will be distinctly underwhelming as politicians will remain in charge. If the mainstream examination system isn't reformed more and more universities will have to find their own solutions.