Yesterday a comparative study written in co-authorship between Alex Usher, Cezar Haj, Graeme Atherton, Irina Geanta and myself was published by the European Comission. It looks at the shape and consequences of higher education admission systems across Europe – comparing key information on 36 countries with in-depth studies in 8 of them. A network of people from these countries helped us compile the necessary information and carrying out the case studies vital to this enterprise.
In 21st century society, the ability to access and succeed in higher education is central to social mobility and economic security for European countries. The question of who goes on to higher education and who does not, who is steered towards it and who is steered away from it, is thus a major issue in forming dynamic and progressive societies. Whilst admission systems have the task of selecting those who have the potential to succeed in higher education, they can also limit such opportunities for certain social groups. Therefore, admission systems can be assessed on their capability to provide an efficient and effective route to study success, but also on the inclusiveness of this process.
The central idea on which the study is built is that an admission system is both technically and socially constructed around the answers to the following three questions:
- How do schools choose people who can become students?
- How do universities and colleges choose the students they enrol?
- How do students choose higher education institutions?
The study closes with 9 direct recommendations for improving the equity and efficiency of higher education admission.
If we are focussed on #edtech, probably the 3rd question is most relevant. We carried out focus groups with young people making decisions on where to go. One of the more extreme complaints was that access information (and I quote directly): “was as boring as the bible”. Information and advice systems are vital and perhaps we can have some hope that recommendation systems might be able to simplify this challenge a little.
It is imperative to improve the information, advice and guidance available to young people on their options for higher education. In particular, students require contextual information and advice which is personalised and goes beyond their social-proximity network (i.e. their parents, relations and friends), which is where they otherwise tend to receive this information.
This is a major challenge for the future, which requires ‘joined up thinking’ between the various layers in the higher education admission system (between schools, advice services, parents and higher education institutions). It could be an area for thoughts on solutions using open data and recommendation systems too.
See study here:
Comparative report (including executive summary): https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/9cfdd9c1-98f9-11e7-b92d-01aa75ed71a1