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UCAS And Parental Info

Universities to get parental info

But surely the whole point is that your social background should not effect your chances of getting into any given University? It should be solely on the grounds of your ability.

I wouldn't want to think that my being from a single parent family without a strong history of going to University would have given me an unfair advantage getting into my choice of courses. It's irrelevant, why mention it?

I can understand that this information would be useful when considering burseries, but surely this information could be withheld until then so it wasn't part of the general admissions process?

If you want more children from less academic backgrounds to go through the university system (which is not always appropriate for everyone anyway) then why not go out and speak to them and show them what there is out there available to them. Don't do it by given them an artificial "discount" on the entry requirements.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
16th Mar, 2007 10:53 (UTC)
It is relevant, because if you have somebody at interview who doesn't have the maths necessary to answer a question but is well-spoken and well-dressed (as many candidates suddenly become when going for interviews), it is quite easy to assume they have been taught the maths by their obviously very good school (c.f. dress sense, mode of speech) and are just not very intelligent, when in fact they might be a very good scientist but have been to a school that e.g. denied vectors exist, like mine did. If you have only appearance and information the student volunteers themselves to go on when deciding how much of a student's deficiency is due to the chances they haven't had and how much is due to them not being good enough for the course, then you will be much more likely to misjudge, unless you are autistic and unable to assume anything.
16th Mar, 2007 11:57 (UTC)
OK, I can understand including which school the student went to, but I thought that was already given on the UCAS form as far as I can remember from when I filled one in?

However, that's completely separate to what their parents do for a career.

Surely, part of the point of the interview is to assertain what the applicant knows and how well they deal with covering material they don't know? If this needs to be addressed then why not fix this rather than the details on the application form?

This should certainly be possible by using sufficiently open questioning or giving the applicant a choice of topics to cover. If an applicant is showing signs of not knowing about a particular concept/topic then you could always teach it to them in the interview to see how well they pick it up (which must be one of the main things you are looking for?)?
16th Mar, 2007 12:45 (UTC)
If you give a state school applicant an open question they often clam up completely and revert to giving single-word answers, because they think you're trying to trick them into looking stupid.

Ok, why is it relevant to say what parents do for a career...I'm inclined to agree with you a bit, now. I don't think you can tell much about an individual student from what their parents do - you can say that statistically a child of two retail workers is less likely to have had parental help with their homework, a supportive environment for study, etc. than a child of two doctors, but statistics don't translate to individuals. It may even reinforce the problem of universities assuming parents will be supportive because they are relatively wealthy and then they turn out not to be.

I suppose a physics applicant whose mother doesn't have a degree is a lot more likely to have been pink-brainwashed her whole life and made superhuman effort in getting to a point where she's applying for physics degrees, whereas little Jocasta who's been sent to hundreds of residential courses and has her own library of physics texts has had to merely do what she was told.
16th Mar, 2007 11:53 (UTC)
It should be solely on the grounds of your ability.

One question you need to answer before you can have a position on this is what you mean by that ability. Do you mean the people who are currently best at X-subject at the end of their A-levels, the people who you estimate would be best at X-subject at the end of their degree, the people who would be best at X-subject in 40 years time, the people who love X-subject most, etc...

(A different, but also interesting question - If there are two candidates of near equal ability, one of whom (the slightly weaker) wants to do his degree and do as much academic research in his subject as possible and the other of whom is clear that they want to do their undergraduate course and then be a banker or similar, which do you think the place should go to?)
16th Mar, 2007 12:02 (UTC)
OK, I take your point that I have overlooked things like interests and what the candidates future plans are. This is perfectly relevant to the application.

However, these are things you can find out without knowing what their parents do, etc. From what I remember, you may have put them on the application form anyway certainly in the personal statement (if there wasn't a separate box for them).
16th Mar, 2007 12:22 (UTC)
That was only my second point. My first point was that it shows more subject-X ability to get a B in subject-X when you have to self teach yourself subject-X and no-one else you've ever met has more than a D in subject-X; than it does to get a B in subject-X if your dad is an expert in Subject-X who has been teaching it to you since you were born. I assume (and this was my first question) that universities want talent and ability to learn, which is different to amount currently known.
16th Mar, 2007 14:06 (UTC)
I think the problem is that many universitys do not interview applicants in detail/at all(at least from my experience), and therefore cannot tell what the applicant's interest in the subject is, or how they think about problems. To replace this with a comparison between exam results and (very limited) background information seems to be a bizzarre and vague kind of weighting system, which doesn't reflect the candidate so much as a statistical representation of them. This may or may not be more representative than just exam results, but it does invite the false feeling of knowing what a person is like.
16th Mar, 2007 17:35 (UTC)
If your Dad is an expert in subject X they may not have been teaching you it since you were born. My Mum never taught me maths other than the year when she was in the classroom as my teacher and it always *really* annoyed me that people assumed I was top as I was getting extra tuition.

It should be as unacceptable for this information be be in front of tutors as it would if you were applying for a job at 18. Your CV might say if you went to state or private school but it doesn't include family background.
16th Mar, 2007 17:41 (UTC)
*shrug* I'm not sure if I think it should be acceptable or not. I just think that Owen's point about it being irrelavent is completely wrong.

If you judge people based on where they are now, you discriminate against people who haven't had opportunities. If you try to guess where people could be then not only do you take currently weaker candidates over stronger ones, you're _just guessing_. I'm not sure what the answer is.
16th Mar, 2007 21:15 (UTC)
No it should be based on ability to learn, how much the candidate is likely to get out of the course, interest and eagerness to learn, etc. None of which can be told from what your parents do.

A well structured interview should give an idea of a candidates ability to learn regardless of what they already know. OK, not everywhere always interviews, but perhaps they should?

The only conclusions you can make from the parental employment or similar information is generalisations based on stereotypes, which certainly shouldn't contribute to whether a particular candidate gets a place. Hence it's irrelevant to the application process.

If there is a strong personal background that a particular student has overcome then this could be mentioned far more appropriately in their personal statement or the reference.
16th Mar, 2007 23:50 (UTC)
That would surely come up in interview, in any case.

"Why are you interested in ... ?"
"Well, I've had an interest ingrained in me since the age of 5, having had it all around me; my mum used to point out and explain stuff to me and as I grew up I naturally picked up the fanaticism, I can't now imagine doing something that doesn't have ... in it somewhere ... "

-- flurble
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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