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Admission to higher education

Options:     Print Version - Admission to higher education , part 2 Print view

Reviews of admissions policies

For all the reasons stated in Part 1, educational policymakers all over the world have been reviewing admissions policies.

In the UK, an independent review was commissioned in 2003 by the then secretary of state for education and skills from professor Steven Schwartz. A report was published in 2004 (Schwartz, 2004), followed by a further review of practice, which reported in December 2008.

The original Schwartz Report set out five general principles which are still considered the cornerstone of good admissions policies:

  1. Transparency – applicants should be provided with the information necessary to help them make informed choices.
  2. Reliability and validity – methods of assessment should conform to good practice and research.
  3. Selection for merit, potential and diversity.
  4. Barriers must be minimized – particularly in relation to disability, and non-professional qualifications.
  5. A professional approach should be taken towards admissions, with appropriate training for staff, and a move towards centralization.

The review was undertaken by the Supporting Professionalism in Admissions Programme (SPA), which also supports those involved in the admissions process and publishes good practice.

The US has a less centralized educational system, thus making it difficult for a federal department to issue nation-wide guidelines. The debate rages with sufficient intensity, however, for a volume of essays to have been gathered on fairer and better ways of managing the admissions process (Camara and Kimmel, 2005).

The political and economic environment often acts as an impetus to reform. In South Africa, for example, years of apartheid have resulted in a skills deficit and poorly educated sections of the population which has prompted energetic affirmative action policies. The Higher Education Quality Committee initiated a project in 2002 aimed at improving teaching and learning in higher education, with much attention to diversity (Council on Higher Education, 2004).

Singapore is influenced by its position as a regional hub for southeast Asia, providing educational opportunities not only for its own students but also for those from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and mainland China. Conscious of the need to provide critical thinkers in a global economy, it has instituted a number of reforms in its universities including a more flexible admissions policy which looks beyond academic achievement and considers extra curricular activities (Mok, 2008).