The Assembly Government ushered in its historic overhaul of school qualifications yesterday, but immediately admitted that Wales' highest-achieving pupils can't rely on it for university applications.
The Welsh Baccalaureate, which has been piloted in 31 schools across Wales, is to be offered to pupils all over the country as an alternative to A-levels.
Education Minister Jane Davidson hailed the qualification as 'fit for purpose', but it later emerged that it was not up to the job for students seeking to enter the UK's top universities.
The Assembly Government was forced to admit that pupils with aspirations of attending elite universities would be better advised not to rely on the Baccalaureate, after it was revealed that several colleges of Oxford University would not recognise the qualification in place of A-levels.
Other Oxbridge colleges and top English universities are understood to be unimpressed with the new certificate.
A leading education academic last night urged caution among those considering sacrificing a third A-level in favour of the Baccalaureate.
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said, 'I would be very wary of the Welsh Baccalaureate.
'I think it's quite a low-level general qualification, and, in essence, what the leading universities are looking for is a demonstration that you have got a good platform for higher-level studies.
'If I was a parent, I would be very wary of it. It may be right for some schools and some pupils, but if I was a parent confronted with this, I would ask which doors this qualification is going to open. I would want to be sure it would be recognised by the universities and I would want to be sure employers would recognise it.'
The Assembly Government last night said students hoping to attend one of the UK's elite universities should take three A-levels, and use the Baccalaureate as no more than a 'bonus point'.
Dafydd Frost, associate principal at St David's College, in Penylan, Cardiff, where the scheme has been piloted, said, 'I prepare all the Oxford and Cambridge students and they would often say it wouldn't help them.
'It's fair to say that Oxford and Cambridge Universities are not making offers on the basis of the Welsh Baccalaureate or even coming down a grade for it.'
The Baccalaureate requires students to study for two A-levels alongside a core certificate in more vocational studies, such as key skills and work-related education.
Ms Davidson said, 'The clear message that we have heard from pilot centres, from Ucas, from internal evaluation, and now from independent external evaluation is that the Welsh Bac is 'fit for purpose'.
'In light of all of the evidence, I am, therefore delighted to announce that there will be a staged roll-out from September 2007, which will make the Welsh Bac widely available, across Wales, whilst also ensuring the training and other support is in place to ensure successful implementation.
'These are historic times for education in Wales - we are leading the way to a new style of learning and I believe, one which will be the envy of learning cultures throughout the UK.'