UCAS applications to UK Higher Education institutions were reported to have increased by over 22% in 2010 (UCAS, January 2010), levelling off to 16.5% by March 2010. Yet universities in England are simultaneously faced with a government cap on undergraduate places. In this context, the increasing numbers of well-qualified applicants present institutions with a real challenge: how can they choose between applicants in a way that is consistent, fair, transparent and predictive of their future academic success?
Debating this issue were Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research & Development and two guest speakers: Janet Graham, Director of SPA (Supporting Professionalism in Admissions Programme) and Dr Robert Wilkins, Coordinator for Admissions to Medicine at Oxford University.
The speakers concurred that, whilst a number of different forms of assessment are available to institutions to help differentiate between applicants, it is important that the assessment instruments used are fit for purpose, in that they are fair and valid.
Tim Oates argued that there was no “magic bullet” for universities to solve the competitive admissions conundrum, saying: “What we need – and this indeed is emerging in some institutions – is sophisticated use of ‘baskets’ of data and information, finely tuning the decision process to the requirements of specific courses. The critical thing is to have that process well-informed, judiciously operated and transparent. But of course, therein lies a tremendous challenge.”
This seminar was part of a stimulating series hosted by the Cambridge Assessment Network. The series aims to provide a platform for debating current issues in assessment.
To find out more, watch the highlights and interviews with speakers.