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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 13:01 GMT
Your views on university applications
BBC education correspondent Mike Baker considered whether universities were using application forms to bring about social engineering.

As usual we invited your thoughts too. Here is a selection of the responses.

When I was admitted to university I was not interviewed and have a strong suspicion that the fact I am from a working class, single-parent family and studied at a state school had a lot to do with my acceptance. Friends from more affluent backgrounds with slightly better grades from the same and other schools were rejected from my institution. Having studied 50% of my degree in the field of educational policy I can see that this is a field which is fraught with danger. It is only safe to say that there will be very few future decisions made over applicants which can be judged 100% fair until all quotas and targets are removed from higher education. Becky, Durham, UK

"Any university that passes over the candidate with the most potential would be working against its own interests." Absolutely, if not for the fact that greater funding is likely to come with a weaker candidate (even after considering relative opportunities) who ticks the right boxes. With departments going under, intellectual ability sadly isn't the only thing on admissions tutor's minds.
Craig Morrison, Cambridge

I'm a software engineering student at Manchester, on placement in my third year at a company near Manchester where I had the opportunity to review next year's intake of job applicants. The process seems very similar to university applications - grades, grades, grades ... and relevant demonstration of ability. It's hard to look at a low grades at A-level and consider them good students, and we're after the best. The big issue in my mind is the borderline cases - how much time do you spend reviewing/interviewing them? The facts around middle class versus poor backgrounds are mute. It should not matter. I was almost dumb-founded that they should even suggest it. They should spend more time reviewing/interviewing borderline cases.
John Beech, Manchester

Firstly, this report focuses on academic routes in to higher education, which is not always a typical entry route. More and more we are seeing that we learn best through practical experience and vocational courses - these provide adequate qualifications to enter higher education, and often a little more life experience. Secondly, it is generally the more academic course which does not require an interview at university; the likes of nursing, education, social work, business etc certainly do require an interview; offering the "middle-classes" applicants an equal opportunity in the entry process. This report does not consider the foundation degree route either, which is often a much more practical option for those with families, who work, are less confident, have fewer entry qualifications etc.
Vicky Jackson, Tyne and Wear

To base decisions on how much adversity a student has faced also seems unfair. A student facing greater adversity is no more deserving of a place than a student that has had a seemingly untroubled life. I have applied to university this year and have received an offer from an excellent university. I have attended a below-average school with a sixth form that comprises around 15 students in Year 13. I have experienced family break-ups, relocation and financial difficulty and I take pride in the fact that my offer was based on my own individual merits. At my first choice university for the course I wish to study, nearly 50% of the students recruited are from overseas. Perhaps this should be more limited if students living in Britain are facing disappointment and rejection because of over subscription.
Leanne, Coventry

I supervise university entrance at my independent school. In the 2007 round, we were asked to include individual AS module scores on the forms. Checking this information - at least 12 results for each of my 130 applicants - took ages. Later I discovered that since most applicants didn't bother to include these (optional) details, universities didn't even consider the information. For 2008 I shall recommend that any voluntary information is ignored. It seems to be nothing more that a political gesture designed to reduce the chances of hard-working applicants.
Rob Clarke, Surrey

"Let's calm down a bit." This is a statement I cannot let pass by without comment. The scenario you have painted of your daughter is a successful one, and I congratulate her - but let me paint you mine. I am 18, studying four A-levels at a Grammar School, for which I am predicted all As. I am the head girl, I have a part-time job, and I take part in endless extra-curricular activities concerned with my chosen subject, English. Out of my six university choices I have been rejected by four, and I am waiting only on Warwick, who has not even called me to an interview. I am white and middle-class, but neither of my parents have degrees, so it could be argued that this may work in my favour but I am entirely against it. I have contacted universities and have been told; "we do not disadvantage against selective schools but we wish to acknowledge academic attainment in the context it was achieved." Essentially, because I go to a Grammar School I have been discriminated against and it is infuriating - why should my 4 As be worth less than the AAB grades of someone attending an inner-city state school? By the same token then, I am entirely against the universities being given such personal information; it does not reflect in anyway my academic potential, but it does allow universities to discriminate on yet more obscure grounds.
Jo Crew, Kent

The question of whether a child has graduate parents does not necessarily predict the wealth or social status of parents at a particular time. Degree qualifications from a previous generation are sometimes redundant, unused or out of date. Therefore assumptions can be made which are very wide of the mark - even more than you describe! My own step daughter would, on first analysis be heavily discriminated against as she is female, has graduate parents and attends a private school. What this doesn't state is that her parents are separated, have retrained several times to keep in average jobs and she has gone to private school on a scholarship with herself and the rest of us making sacrifices and buying second-hand. But are these the type of middle class, stereotypical values we all now love to hate?
Pip Marshall, Nottingham

You seem to take as your criteria for selecting students their ability to overcome adversity. Whilst I agree that this shows strength of character and determination, are we to discriminate against those who have luckily faced fewer obstacles in their lives? Who can say that these children if placed in challenging situations would not show equal strength in the face of adversity?
Hannah, Cambridge

This is (mostly) all true, but sensible, balanced analysis of facts won't sell newspapers! However I don't agree with interviewing all candidates. I have found through my recent personal experience at university that the some of the most intelligent students are often the most reclusive and non-talkative, and dreadful at conversation; I certainly cannot imagine them interviewing well. It is well known that at interviews 90% of the judgement is formed by body language and expression, only 10% is what you say. How we can rely on the interviewer to wash these lifelong trained skills aside and to only focus on what they say is asking an awful lot.
Duncan Stott, Oxford






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