Our Top Universities Shouldn't Introduce Social Engineering to Aid the Disadvantaged ; `There Are Aspects of the Entry Procedures That Seem Contrary to Natural Justice'
Stephen, Martin, The Independent (London, England)
RECENT REVELATIONS in The Independent showing how a Cambridge college gives preference to candidates who come from poor schools raise serious issues. The issues are not personal. I cannot knowingly point to any candidate from this school (Manchester Grammar) to Cambridge or to Oxford who has been discriminated against on the basis of his being a pupil here. We have no serious quarrel with this or any other year's entry round. We have no axe to grind.
Yet three aspects of the entry procedures detailed in the article seem contrary to natural justice - the lack of transparency to candidates regarding entry criteria; the lack of transparency to schools, and the lack of any external validation or answerability. It appears that early in the application "process points" were available for candidates from schools with statistically poor A- level results, points not available to those whose schools exceeded a certain UCAS points score.
The crucial issue is not the entry criteria adopted by Clare College. It has the right to adopt whatever criteria it wishes, and will do so whatever schools say and wish. Nor is the crucial issue the perceived bias against independent schools, as very many maintained school candidates would also fail to qualify for the extra marks.
The issue is that the college did not declare to applicants that it was handicapping candidates from schools with good A-level results, depriving them of marks or points that were available to candidates from other schools. The issue is not the criteria, but the transparency of those criteria. In the Undergraduate Prospectus 2000-2001, University of Cambridge the entry for this particular college says: "We... recognise that students come to us with very varied educational experience, and we, therefore, aim to assess every application in the light of individual circumstances."
This appears economical with the truth. As I understand it a truer statement would be that extra marks are awarded on a candidate's preliminary application form if they are from a school perceived as having weak A-level results. A second crucial issue is that, as this rather arbitrary ranking of a candidate's school has hitherto remained secret, it has not been answerable or subject to validation. The method by which the college appears to have graded schools seems amateur and crude. Do university academics - existing amid one of the most favoured areas for both private and maintained secondary education in the country - have the expertise to pigeon- hole schools in wildly differing areas of the UK? Even if they do, the league tables seem a strange place to start - very raw data indeed, as capable of misleading as of informing.
It is bad enough to have a criterion that is not disclosed to applicants. It compounds the offence when that criterion appear so clumsily drawn up, with no external validation or scrutiny. All examination systems have their failings, perhaps more so in recent years than ever before. Yet even the worst A-level or GCSE has a right of appeal and the possibility of a re-mark. There is no right of appeal against the judgement of the college, merely a right of complaint which is always ineffectual. A …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Our Top Universities Shouldn't Introduce Social Engineering to Aid the Disadvantaged ; `There Are Aspects of the Entry Procedures That Seem Contrary to Natural Justice'. Contributors: Stephen, Martin - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 19, 2000. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.