Better applications needed as well as better uni selection

The Sunday Age‘s letter page had a mixed reaction to last week’s story about widening entry criteria to university courses, especially by using aptitude tests (based on this report released later in the week by the U of M Centre for the Study of Higher Education).

But none criticised the proposal for more aptitude testing. America is the home of aptitude testing for tertiary admission, and there it has long been controversial, accused of socio-economic and cultural/racial biases. The CSHE report is hopeful that aptitude testing might dilute the SES biases of using school results for admission, but they couldn’t offer strong evidence that this was the case, and note that whatever the admission system middle class people are likely to do better. Though aptitude tests are increasingly being used here, I think we are short of the evidence base needed to recommend their spread, rather than continuing to watch as individual universities experiment with their use.

The perspective I thought was missing in the CSHE report – perhaps because it is largely a literature review, and reflects the work of past researchers – is that of the applicant. It’s largely about how universities select students, rather than how students choose which institution to apply to. So it focuses on universities finding out more about students, rather than students finding out more about universities, their academic prospects, and what jobs they might get on completion. Continue reading “Better applications needed as well as better uni selection”