Spanish academics want more change

August 25, 1995

Despite being described by Spain's national assessment body as "satisfactory", some academics believe further reforms are needed in the country's university entrance examinations.

Some changes were introduced last year and this year's results were slightly better: 181,366 passed the "selectivity" examinations, compared with 178,703 last year.

Spain's complicated system begins with students listing their university preferences. Up to 50 choices are allowed in Madrid, whereas Catalonia only permits eight. Ninety-five per cent of students can only apply to universities within their autonomous region, reducing mobility, and universities set minimum entrance requirements, based on projected demand.

Once students have sat the selectivity examination in July, each is given a mark from one to ten, based on selectivity results and average marks over the last four years of secondary schooling. Places are allocated according to preferences using this score as the decisive factor. "If there are 500 places for medicine at Madrid's Complutense University, then the 500 students with the highest mark get in," said Enrique Roca, Director of the Centre for Educational Research and Documentation.

This demand-driven system also provides an indication of universities' popularity. This year, the capital's Polytechnic University of Madrid is the hardest to get into, while Andalusia's University of Jaen is the most welcoming. Among Catalan students, business studies was the most popular course, followed by industrial engineering, teacher training and law.

Changes introduced last year give students more time to take the examination, include more questions and set a maximum of 200 papers to be marked by a single examiner.

Dr Roca gave a positive verdict on the changes and this year's pass rates. "They are a good sign, showing that students are well-prepared and that the examination is in line with the syllabus," he said.

In Catalonia, north-eastern Spain, innovation has been taken a step further. Traditional school noticeboard lists have been replaced by a network of videotext terminals which allow students to find out their results and where they have a place. There are plans to extend this to enrolment.

Joan Albaiges, in charge of universities and research in the region's autonomous government, says more change is necessary. He believes it should be harder for students to re-apply for a different course after completing one or two years at university. This group accounts for 16 per cent of applicants and is a drain on resources. Dr Albaiges also says marks gained in the subject a student intends to study should be given a higher weighting when calculating the selectivity score. Able students may be held back by weakness in a subject which bears no relevance to their future studies.

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