Big questions on selection

September 26, 2003

* Should students be selected on their potential to: complete a course successfully; excel academically and achieve the highest grades; contribute subsequently to society; or on a combination of these factors?

* Is it important that universities and colleges have students from a wide range of backgrounds? If so, should universities and colleges choose students partly in order to achieve such a mix?

* Is it fair for universities and colleges, when they look at an applicant's examination grades, to consider any obstacles that he or she might have had to overcome, such as having suffered illness, attending a low-achieving school or having had family problems? For these reasons, is it fair for a university or college to offer places to applicants with lower examination results than those who have not had to overcome such problems?

* Should an applicant's educational context - for example, type and nature of the school or college attended - be considered for admission? Should these factors be taken into consideration, and should such applicants be offered a place on the basis of lower exam results than those required of other applicants?

* Is it desirable or necessary to consider additional measures of assessment when making admissions decisions - outside subject-specific measures such as portfolios for creative arts courses or auditions for performing arts courses? If so, should the following be included as additional means of assessment: interviews; compact arrangements; taking school performance into account; taking personal and contextual factors into account; earning credit through additional preparatory programmes; aptitude testing; and accreditation of prior experiential learning?

* Should the education sector move to a system of post-qualification applications?

* Should some or all of the following options be included in a list of possibilities for institutions to consider in assessing the merit and potential of applicants for courses: using school performance data or school type to contextualise individual performance; using GCSE grades more explicitly; using class rank; additional testing; using extra objective criteria linked to success on higher education courses; interviews; explicitly considering personal background; compact arrangements; and encouraging centralised admissions?

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