Electronic CV for students

April 10, 1998

RADICAL new plans for handling student applications have met a lukewarm response from education administrators and civil liberties campaigners.

Details of the scheme, designed to record exam grades, key skills and other achievements throughout a student's life on an electronic database, were submitted for consideration by ministers last week.

Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which drew up the plan, said it would offer equal treatment for people studying academic and vocational subjects, would lead to more useful league tables and allow universities to make a better informed choice of applicants.

"But it does not stop there," he said. "We are into lifelong learning so we aim for a database of every single citizen in the UK, which will hold all their educational and other achievements."

Eventually, employers may be able to search the database for employees with the exact qualities to match their needs.

Philip Leach, legal director of the civil liberties group Liberty, said that while many of the proposals clearly offered benefits, they would have to include safeguards to protect privacy. "The danger is that in future there may be changes - for good reasons - which will permit the information to be distributed more widely than had been intended," he said.

George Donaldson, deputy head of Latymer School, said: "I'm horrified by some of the aspects of the profile UCAS is proposing." He said giving weightings to qualities other than academic achievements could lead to a different football captain every week as teachers tried to do their best for pupils' CVs. And he warned: "It may lead to people simply pressing buttons to make their selections."

Kenneth Edwards, vice-chancellor at the University of Leicester, said: "Big Brother is still active."

Gary Wright, head of marketing at Salford University said: "The idea of a national database is horrendous." He said he feared it would be linked to the student identity card, which is also under consideration by the government.

Liberty has written to ministers warning of the privacy issues involved, particularly if the cards carry information such as the ethnic origin of a student.

But Mr Higgins defended the proposed applications scheme, which he stressed was still in its early stages.

He said: "There is no suggestion of people being allocated a place by points. This is the only country in Europe where students are selected as to their potential rather than simply on the basis of performance. That is why we have the lowest drop-out rate. The idea of profiling is simply that there is more information available."

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