British government Minister: admit students on 'potential' rather than grades
This is a perfectly reasonable proposition --- DEPENDING on how "potential" is assessed. High scores on an IQ test or something like the American SAT would be an excellent way of detecting potential
Bright students from poor-performing schools should be admitted to university with worse A-level results than other pupils, a minister claimed today. Academics should look beyond raw A-level grades to select pupils by their “potential” to succeed in higher education, said David Willetts, the Universities Minister.
He also suggested that rising numbers of poorly-qualified students should be given a “foundation year” – before the start of their full degree course – to enable them to catch up.
In a speech, Mr Willetts denied charges of “social engineering” but insisted a “serious sorting exercise” was needed to ensure the university admissions system was based on “genuine meritocracy”.
The comments came as the Government announced that a record total of around £900m would be spent in 2012/13 on reforms designed to boost access to university – up by £100m in just three years.
Last month, figures showed the majority of universities belonging to the elite Russell Group admitted fewer pupils from state schools and the most deprived backgrounds in 2010/11.
Amid unprecedented demand for university places, academics insisted that many bright students failed to apply or fell short of tough entry requirements.
In a speech in London, Mr Willetts called for a “renewed push to ensure that universities are broadening participation and improving access” as a pay-off for allowing institutions to charge up to £9,000 in tuition fees this year.
“What we all want to see is not social engineering – and certainly not quotas – but quite simply genuine meritocracy," he said. "Because entry to our universities is a competitive process, with more applicants than there are places, there has to be a serious sorting exercise."
Mr Willetts added that admissions “can be based on more than just A-level results, by looking at all the information that indicates the potential of an individual to succeed”. “The aim is that those who can perform best at any given university are selected for it,” he said.
“We now spend a lot of money trying to overcome the barriers which might stop those who are perhaps at weaker schools or in low participation neighbourhoods going to university.”
A study last year found that almost 23 per cent of universities were planning to make “lower offers” to candidates from poor backgrounds starting in 2012 – up from 18 per cent in 2011.
Addressing the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Mr Willetts said that central Government and individual universities were preparing to spend £900m in 2012/13 on programmes designed to widen access. He said a “systematic assessment” of these programmes would be carried out to discover “what works and what is less effective”.
Speaking afterwards, he backed programmes run by many Russell Group universities in which academics mentor bright pupils from poor-performing schools throughout their A-levels.
He also praised a scheme run by King’s College London that gives bright students with poor A-levels a “foundation year” to prepare them for the demands of a full-time medicine degree course.
“We know, at the end of the day, that their chances of getting a good medical degree are as good as those who turn up with three As,” he said.