Make all Universities equal?

Cambridge University is set to give 'poorer' students a second chance.

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Make all Universities equal?

By Jim Scott

As Cambridge University is set to give "poorer" students who fail entry requirements, a chance to study at its world-class university. Is it time, all university institutions treat entry requirements the same?

The Independent reports that the university need to "dispel facile stereotypes of Cambridge as a bastion of privilege" and that the university could not class itself as "truly great" if it was no longer open to different cultures and people from both rich and poor backgrounds, including academic ability. It will apparently cost £500 million to implement the scheme.

Whilst there is no direct link between people from poor backgrounds and bad grades, as the Telegraph reports. Children who grew up in a state of poverty, could do "less well in education" because their parents are more stressed and therefore less able to help with educational activities such as homework. But the rise of "unconditional offers" sent by some UK institutions has been credited to help "low-performing" students a chance to start university, where grades may have shut the "educational door".

But not everyone has welcomed such plans to make gaining a degree easier. Chris Ramsey, head of Whitgift School in London said universities were admitting students who had gotten A-level results, 5 grades below their original offer. And argued, universities could risk losing their integrity as school pupils learn "they do not really need to meet their offers" as they would be given a place "either way". Ramsey’s criticism comes, as other head teachers and university bosses call for an end of "unconditional offers" being handed to school leavers. Such offers allow an individual to progress to their first-year of university without having to achieve a set grade. Instead, they are selected for the course based on their merit and personality, CDBU explains.

One student told the BBC, being sent an unconditional offer helped her work harder in the final months of higher education. 18-year-old, Olivia Harris said: "When I got an email from the university I really wanted to go to with the offer, I actually fell off the seat on the bus I was so happy.

"Not only so happy and proud that they thought I was a good enough candidate, but also a tiny bit of relief to know I had the offer. I think some people use it and think: 'Oh I don't have to work hard', but I think it may have pushed me more than not having it. I wanted to prove the point to people that I deserve it.”

On Tuesday, October 16th, dozens of students in France were "up in arms" about government plans to raise entry requirements for university establishments in the country. Those protesting argued raising entry requirements would make it harder for those, less academic to gain a degree, Spiked reports.

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Plan to make university entrance easier met with hope

Durban - The withdrawal of the “designated subjects” list, which makes university entry easier for prospective students, has been met with both criticism and hope.

The designated subjects were those done by pupils which were deemed to be of special value in a university education, such as maths, physics, English and accounting.

Some education experts say this move demonstrates the “responsive attitude” of the government in removing requirements which dictated to pupils which subject to pupils had to choose to qualify for university entry.

In March, the Higher Education Department gazetted revocation of the designated subjects list.

And a month earlier Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga had gazetted for comment on seeking to lower the minimum mark required to progress in Grades 7, 8 and 9. The department proposes that pupils should pass if they get 40% in their mother tongue and three other subjects.

Grade 9 pupils in KwaZulu-Natal are at present choosing which subjects they will take for matric and will be the first to be affected by the withdrawal of the designated subjects.

Without the designated subjects, the responsibility will be shifted to pupils to ensure that their subjects and achievement levels are aligned with the institution at which they wish to study, putting more emphasis on the importance of career guidance.

Matakanye Matakanya, the chairperson of the National School Governing Bodies’ Association, said without encouraging a culture of achieving minimum results, the idea of more people having access to university education was a good idea as a qualification placed them in a better position for employment.

Anne Oberholzer, CEO of the Independent Examinations Board (IEB), said the change did not mean that any three electives would be acceptable for entrance into any course of university study, as each university and each faculty could set its own entrance criteria. These criteria often specify a set level of achievement in specified subjects.

Oberholzer said the change followed long-standing criticism of the “designated subject list”, that it excluded subjects that should probably have been included in the list and skewed subject selection by pupils.

She said it was likely there would be a greater number of pupils qualifying for university study, but cautioned that it was crucial that all pupils realised that meeting the statutory minimum did not mean they would be automatically admitted into an institution or into their chosen course of study.

“The pressure would be on institutions as it would be expected that admission would still be reserved for the higher achievers.

“The more testing courses, such as medicine, engineering and actuarial sciences, have very stringent entrance requirements and achievement of the minimum requirements will never open the doors to these programmes of study,” she said.

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